- Exodus drummer Tom Hunting, 56, just gave fans an update on his intense cancer battle that started out as squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer).
- The metal man will be having his entire stomach removed, but his spirits are high with hopes that he will be able to live life cancer-free.
- A cancer survivor tells SurvivorNet what it’s like dealing with depression post-gastrectomy, and that she was able to get through it and heal from it.
“Unfortunately it’ll be a full gastrectomy,” the rocker said in a statement, which is full removal of his stomach, “but the good news is I’ll get to live which is definitely NOT overrated. After recovery, I get 4 more treatments, then I can resume my life cancer-free. I can’t wait to travel the world, playing music, enjoying every moment of this crazy journey!!”Read More
The metal man, who will have his surgery on July 12, announced in April that he’s “gonna beat (cancer) like a fucking snare drum that owes me money!!!” And it seems as if he is continuing with that positive mentality.
Hunting said that the mass has shrunk to less than half the size it was in March after four treatments.
“That’s amazing progress! I’ve added the weight back I lost at the start of this. Clinically, these are all good signs,” he said along with a photo of himself at a drum kit, sporting short hair, a flexed bicep, and a tough game-face. “From the start, this could’ve gone in a really bad direction, but everything the doctors at UCSF laid out, has all gone according to plan in turning things around. I’m very grateful to these unsung heroes!”
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“Today I will be starting treatment for a squamous cell carcinoma,” Hunting shared during his initial announcement. “It’s a gastric tumor that was diagnosed in my upper stomach in February. I’m making this public to raise awareness for people to pay attention to symptoms of stomach and esophageal issues. If they persist, please go get it checked out. I’m not gonna be sheepish talking about it.”
Hunting expressed that it feels good to share his news with the world. “If I can help someone with what I’ve learned, or someone out there has information to share with me, it’s a win-win! When you can name the enemy, it’s empowering, and you’re 1 step closer to killing it!”
Hunting co-founded Exodus in 1979. Guitarist Kirk Hammett was also one of the thrash metal band’s founding members but exited in 1983 to join Metallica.
“I don’t know if you know Tom Hunting, but he’s a very high-strung person,” Hammett said of his former bandmate in a recent interview with Louder magazine. “He’s always shaking, or tapping on something, or hitting something … Tom Hunting had a lot of nervous energy. A lot like (Metallica ) Lars (Ulrich).”
Currently, along with Hunting, the band is made up of guitarists Lee Altus and Gary Holt, lead vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza and bassist Jack Gibson.
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What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer that is typically easy to treat if caught early. In Hunting’s case, it is in his upper stomach, which is more rare.
The American Cancer Society says that most squamous cell skin cancers are found at an early stage and can be removed easily. In more advanced scenarios, these cancers can be harder to treat and chemotherapy may be needed if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
If this type of cancer has spread beyond the initial tumor site, according to Harvard Health, radiation therapy can also be effective if the cancer is in one specific area. If the cancer has metastasized in a more widespread manner, it typically does respond well to chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, Hunting did not catch his cancer early, and is now facing a gastrectomy. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a total gastrectomy involves removing your whole stomach, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of your esophagus and small intestine. Recovery can take a long time, and Hunting will likely be in the hospital for 1 or 2 weeks recovering. Typically, you’ll be given fluids until you can eat and drink again, which patients will eventually be able to do. Eating smaller meals throughout the day will be the goal instead of three large meals.
It is often shocking to learn that a person can live without a stomach, but your body can still digest food. You will feel full faster and have to adapt to a new way of eating.
Amy Armstrong, a breast cancer survivor who also had to get her stomach removed because of a genetic predisposition to cancer, said that she really wasn’t prepared for life immediately after surgery. Armstrong had to get a prophylactic gastrectomy — which means she got her entire stomach removed to prevent a very aggressive type of stomach cancer. She told SurvivorNet that before the operation, she was very active, and in really great shape. So dealing with the side effects really put her in a tough place mentally.
“Unfortunately, I developed an infection while I was going through my surgery, which required me to have a second surgery and was in the hospital for up to a month. I was in a lot of pain … lost a lot of weight, could not eat, couldn’t walk,” Armstrong said. “It really shook me completely from what I had known to be my day-to-day life. I feel into a massive depression and had to get help, because I just couldn’t get through it. Luckily, I persevered.”
Armstrong said that she had to learn to deal mentally with the slow days and hours as her body healed — and she had to learn to have faith in her body as well. “The human body is amazing … how it can heal” she said. “So while we may be confronted with these health challenges, understanding that you have that capacity to heal is something that you should be grateful for.”