Remembering a Legendary Musician
- Musician Eddie Van Halen died on Oct. 6, 2020, at the age of 65 after a 20-year battle with various types of cancer.
- Throat cancer, one of Van Halen’s cancers, can be linked to smoking, excessive drinking and the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
- One of Van Halen’s many diagnoses was stage four lung cancer. Handling a stage four cancer diagnosis can seem like an insurmountable hill to climb, but it’s important to remember that finding a strong support system can make all the difference.
Van Halen died on Oct. 6, 2020, at the age of 65. But despite dying at a young age, Van Halen was able to become one of the most accomplished musicians of his time. His band, Van Halen, became one of the most popular rock acts of all time, and it was his complex, awe-inspiring guitar-playing that often stole the show and gave his band their signature sound.Read More
View this post on Instagram
“I’ve had so many dreams lately with pop and I are just doing normal things and then I realize it’s a dream, stop whatever I am doing, and hug him for as long as I can until I wake up,” Wolf wrote. “I miss the fuck out of him I can’t believe he’s not here anymore. It doesn’t feel real.”
And despite the ongoing grief that resulted from his father’s passing, Wolf is determined to explore his own musicality while making sure his father’s legacy lives on in him.
Even his band’s name, Mammoth WVH, serves as a tribute to his late father.
“The name Mammoth is really special to me,” Wolf said. “Not only was it the name of Van Halen before it became Van Halen, but my father was also the lead singer. Ever since my dad told me this, I always thought that when I grew up, I’d call my own band Mammoth, because I loved the name so much. I’m so thankful that my father was able to listen to, and enjoy the music I made. Nothing made me happier than seeing how proud he was that I was continuing the family legacy.”
Eddie’s Cancer Journey
Van Halen died after multiple battles with various forms of cancer. His first diagnosis, tongue cancer, came in 2000 when Wolf was just nine years old. For treatment, he had part of his tongue removed, but he was declared to be in remission in 2002.
Then around 2014, he was diagnosed with throat cancer after cancerous cells traveled there from his tongue. In 2017, cancer struck again when Van Halen was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Then came a brain tumor in 2019. He received treatment in Germany for the lung cancer in order to extend his expected survival time and reportedly had gamma knife radiation, a type of a radiosurgery, to remove his brain tumor.
Needless to say, Van Halen struggled with his health for many years. SurvivorNet obtained a copy of the death certificate issued two months after his passing which revealed that he was suffering from both lung and skin cancer. The document lists Eddie’s cause of death as a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), but underlying conditions included pneumonia, lung cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
Myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder which causes a disruption in blood cell production, often occurs in response to cancer treatments. He had been suffering from this disorder for the last six months prior to his death.
One important thing to note it that while we don’t necessarily know why each of his cancers developed, we do know that years of heavy drinking, drug use and chain-smoking might have increased his risk for cancer. And despite Van Halen’s claims that his throat cancer was caused by putting copper and brass guitar picks in his mouth for years, there’s no sufficient evidence to back up these claims.
There is, however, evidence linking smoking and excessive drinking to the disease. Throat cancer diagnoses can also be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to Dr. Ted Teknos, the scientific director of UH Seidman Cancer Center, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers have exponentially increased since the mid-90’s.
“If you look at the percentage of patients who developed throat cancer, cancer of the tonsils, and the base of the tongue in the 80s compared to the 2010s, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers has gone up by 300 percent,” Dr. Teknos told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “So there is no myth. HPV causes throat cancer, and it’s a sexually transmitted disease.”
Handling a Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis
It’s important to try to find a strong support system when you’re faced with cancer – perhaps especially so when it comes to a stage four diagnosis meaning your cancer is more advanced and has spread from its original site. Some people, like Millie Torchia and Eddie Van Halen, even find that support from their children. Torchia, a non-smoking mother to three young daughters and, like Eddie Van Halen, a stage four lung cancer warrior, previously shared with SurvivorNet how her daughters helped her through her battle with lung cancer after she decided to be up front with them about her disease and what it can lead to.
“I felt so relieved sharing,” Millie previously told SurvivorNet. “My 10-year-old was the one that understood the most. And I felt much more comfortable, because sometimes I would just sit at home and cry for no reason, but they would come and comfort me. They would come and give me a hug. My 10 year old would say, ‘Think happy thoughts, Mommy.’ My daughters are my strength.”
Like many survivors, Millie says cancer has changed her. Still, it’s her support system that has kept her fighting — no matter how horrible her diagnosis seems.
“This experience has taught me that there are many good people out there,” she said. “I try to live for this moment. I try to enjoy the moment that I am in. Everyone has been so supportive, I sometimes can’t believe it.”