A recent news article about Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood’s lung cancer diagnosis stirred up a variety of thoughts and emotions. I would like to comment on some of the assumptions touched upon in the article.
First, it was refreshing to see journalist Louise Gannon’s August 5, 2017, article in The Daily Mail, “My lung cancer horror,” actually name the cancer.1 Too often, we read about famous people diagnosed simply with “cancer.” I suspect, more often than not, they have “lung” cancer. However, because of this disease’s stigma, their publicist simply says they have “cancer”—presumably, an unnamed, generic type. Acknowledging this disease publicly helps eliminate some of the stigma. It seems as if it takes a bit more courage and honesty to acknowledge for famous folks. So kudos to Wood. Lung cancer was even in the story’s headline. Wood also shares his smoking history, which may encourage others that—even late in life—they can make a positive change in their life.
Wood Advocates for Lung Cancer Screening
Wood quit the week before his twin girls Gracie and Alice were born. He now encourages others at risk for lung cancer to talk to their doctor. “They caught it early,” Wood said of his lung cancer. “People have to get checked. Seriously have to get checked.”
Wood explained his reasoning for getting his lungs checked. “I had this thought at the back of my mind after I gave up smoking a year ago: ‘How can I have got through 50 years of chain-smoking – and all the rest of my bad habits – without something going on in there?’”
However, Wood also revealed a fatalistic outlook that, sadly, I believe many people share.
“They needed to know if it (the cancer) had set up encampments and spread to my lymph nodes. If that had happened it would have been all over for me,” Wood said.
Is lung cancer deadly? Absolutely! Nevertheless, there are more long-term stage IV lung cancer survivors today than ever before. The reason these numbers are increasing is targeted therapy.
The Daily Mail article, and several subsequent articles published immediately afterward, focused on the rock star’s refusal to undergo chemotherapy because he did not want to be bald. (See more here.) (Ironically, some reports claim he has been bald for years but wears a wig. I share my own picture after losing my hair here!) Before knowing whether his cancer had metastasized, Wood made his decision.
“…I wasn’t going to lose my hair,” he said. “This hair wasn’t going anywhere.”
Fortunately, Wood’s lung cancer was caught early. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Likely, his oncologist did not even recommend chemotherapy. However, I do hope they tested his tumor to learn whether he had a mutation indicating he may be a candidate for targeted therapy, if needed.
Hair grows back. Lungs do not.
I hope Wood never needs chemotherapy or targeted therapy. I wish him good health and long life. I hope he has the pleasure of walking his daughters down the aisle. I am deeply grateful he publicly shared his experience. Godspeed, Ronnie Wood!
What do you think? Should more folks that are famous publicly acknowledge that they have lung cancer? Have you had your tumor tested for mutations? Would you be willing to lose your hair to save your life?