TonyIommibig Warren Manger of the Mirror reports:

Rock legend Tony Iommi, 66, had just begun working on a new album with Ozzy Osbourne and his Black Sabbath bandmates when he was diagnosed with the blood cancer lymphoma in January 2012. But he was determined not to let the gruelling treatment stop him working.

When the doctors told me I had cancer I thought, ‘That’s it then.’ Cancer was death as far as I was concerned. I found a painful lump in my groin while I was in New York promoting my book. I thought it was my prostate acting up again, but Ozzy told me I should get it checked out. I came back to England and had an operation to reduce my prostate. It was painless but afterwards I needed a catheter. When that came out I went to see the surgeon.”

He adds, “ ‘Good news on the prostate. It’s been cut down to a sensible size and everything is good there. But on the lump we took out, we found follicular lymphoma.’ It’s a type of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I went for scans to see if it had spread. It hadn’t. But I was still suffering the after effects of my prostate operation. All the antibiotics and other medication had knocked me about a lot, I was really weak and tired. The band had just started work on our latest album, 13, so I got the guys together to tell them the bad news. Ozzy came in and said: ‘Oh yeah, didn’t so and so die from that?’ Which is exactly not what you want to hear. I thought, ‘Thanks a lot, Mr. Bloody Cheerful.’ But that’s Ozzy all over, he always puts his foot in it. It was a relief to be working on the album because it gave me something to focus on instead of sitting there waiting to die. Some days I could join in, other days I felt too ill. But the band knew it would be like that. Ozzy was actually really helpful. It was good to have someone around who had experienced it all before because you always fear the worst when you talk about cancer. Ozzy went through a lot of that stuff when Sharon had colon cancer and it spread to her lymph nodes. When I felt tired he would say: ‘This is what happened with Sharon, you ought to go and lie down, have a rest.’ He even offered to make the tea, but he’s still Ozzy. He’d disappear for three hours then come back empty handed. You’d ask him, ‘Where’s the tea?’ And he’d say, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot.’ Once I got over my prostate operation the doctors started chemotherapy. I needed six courses of chemo, one every three weeks. It takes about six or seven hours to give it you on a drip. I had to change my whole lifestyle, including in the studio. We laugh about how different it was this time. In the good old days there was cocaine everywhere. This time we had tea and coffee and health drinks that my wife, Maria, made for me because I’ve had to change my diet. Thankfully red wine is still on the menu, though. I’m determined to hold on to as many of those little pleasures as possible. I can still go out for dinner with my friends, Jasper Carrott and ELO drummer Bev Bevan, too, but I have to ask if we can eat a little bit earlier these days.”

He continued, “Nobody is used to going to eat at 7pm, but I don’t have the energy to eat late and go out drinking until 2am. I need to go to bed early. It’s not very rock ’n’ roll, but it works for me. After we released the album we went on tour and played 81 shows in 28 countries. I really enjoyed it, but it was tough. After the illness I got really tired. Every six weeks I had to fly home for treatment at the Parkway Hospital in Solihull, just outside Birmingham. I was hooked up to a drip and given an antibody that sort of coats the cancer cells and stops them spreading. Then I had to be home for two or three weeks recovering before I could join up with the band again. We had to plan the whole tour around my treatment. That meant a lot of travelling. And to make matters worse, flying affects my blood cells now because of the cancer. By the time I got to the hotel I’d have anxiety, the shakes, all sorts of things I’d never had before. It was so bad I began worrying whether I was going to be all right. It took me two months to recover after the tour finished, but the doctors said: ‘What do you expect? You’ve been pushing yourself so hard.’ I finally finished my antibody treatment over the summer. It’s good in a way because I have more energy now, but I still don’t know whether the treatment worked.Because I had two different operations at the same time, one on my prostate and one on my lymph nodes, I had too many scans last year and too much radiation. So I can’t have any more scans yet. Every day I feel around for lumps and bumps. Every time I get a pain in my stomach I think, ‘Oh God, it’s cancer’. It’s horrible. I even dream about it. But that’s my life now. The surgeon told me he doesn’t expect the cancer to go away. There’s a 30 per cent chance that it could, but more than likely it will come back and it could be any time. I look at life differently now. I could be here another 10 years or just one year – I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I should try to live a more peaceful life. Then I think, ‘I don’t want to let the illness take over’. After all, I enjoy where I’m at now. I’ve even become a guest lecturer at Coventry University after they awarded me an honorary doctorate. If someone had suggested that to me years ago I’d have turned it down, but I’ve been through a lot and I’ve learned from it, so it feels good to pass that on. These kids are fans too, so I love spending time with them. After everything that has happened, I couldn’t wish for anything better than that.”


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  • Tom Sedge on

    He is the man!! There is no other. The one the only…….Tony Iommi.


  • James K. on

    He’s the real life Iron Man! God bless Tony Iommi! He is the true creator of Heavy Metal! None of the metal bands we love would be who they are if there had never been a Black Sabbath. I pray he’ll beat the cancer. We need Tony around to crush our faces with more monster riffs!

    It’s cool how Ozzy helped Tony, even if he goofed up at times. But like Tony stated, “That’s Ozzy all over”. Ozzy is just a funny, almost childlike at times, great guy. I’m sure it helped Tony a lot having someone around like that to help lift his spirits and keep him laughing. When I was 23, I was front row at an Ozzy concert and got hit by a bucket of what I hope was just plain, clean water. After all, it was Ozzy, so there was no telling. I just kept my eyes and mouth closed and put my head down when I saw it coming!

    • Doug R. on

      With Ozzy, you never know! LOL! 😉

    • Doug R. on

      Yeah unfortunately, I only got to see Ozzy once back in ’92 on the “No More Tours” tour, (yeah right!) and also unfortunately I had good seats, but not close or good enough to get hit in the head with a bucket! But I did get hit in the head with a beer can, thank God it was empty, LOL! 😉
      Party time! Later all. 🙂

    • James K. on

      Yeah, I’ve been hit by my share of beer to. Also shoes, one of those stupid glow sticks, a few drops of beer from the cup James Hetfield threw, and someone’s sweaty smelly shirt. But when Ozzy dumped the water on the section I was in I hope it was just water. Ozzy is such a loon, especially in those days, I wouldn’t be surprised if he, Zakk and half the road crew spit in that bucket. Damn, I just creeped myself out just now!!!

    • Doug R. on

      Let’s see, if memory serves me correctly, beach balls, Frisbees, cigarette lighter, (came in handy once!) and a thong! All objects that I have been hit in the head with, I know there was some other stuff, just can’t remember what the hell it was! 😉

  • Gary B on

    Hands down, the true creator of metal music. Guy is responsible for more killer riffs than anybody that ever strapped on a guitar.The man is one of the the main reasons I started playing guitar way back in 1974. (God I’m old!)

    • Eddie on

      He is the all time riff master and creator of metal music in my view, and a really good guy too.

    • Harry Taint on

      Wow Gary B, I would have to agree. You are old!!

  • Beth Milligan on

    In our home Sabbath and the wonder that is Tony Iommi are very highly revered. My husband saw them way back in the 70’s and they mean so much to us all. We became parents past 40 and our now 12yr old son plays along with them and holds them in very high esteem. He knows he’s looking at the best. I also tell him your looking at courage in action too. I tell him to try to have the same drive as Tony does even while he faces the scourge that is cancer.

  • Juve on

    I have been a fan of Black Sabbath for years, and really enjoyed reading Tony’s book. I highly recommend it. Those guys had a blast back in the day. Tony has earned the right to take it easy now, especially with the illness. His music is immortalized on album, cd, mp3, etc. It is nice to see he desires to keep rocking, but he seems to realize the truth, that his body can’t take that pace anymore. That is nothing to be ashamed of Tony! It surprises me that so many of the rockers from the 60’s and 70’s are still ALIVE with all the drugs and alcohol that have passed through them. I bought 13 when it came out and enjoy it, but I would rather Tony take care of himself and enjoy his life and family than to worry about putting himself through the long hours and work of making an album and going out to tour in support of it. You have proved your worth to the music world 100 fold Tony! Smile, have a glass of wine, and know that plenty of us will be cranking out your tunes for many years to come.

    • juve on

      dana, please show my name as juve, not wayne clarke. thanks

    • Dana on


      D 🙂

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