RikkiRockett640 Poison drummer Rikki Rockett guest on Eddie’s Sirius/XM show, Eddie Trunk Live, on December 14th. The drummer discussed being diagnosed with oral cancer this past summer. Excerpts from the interview appear below as transcribed by Blabbermouth.net.

On how he was diagnosed:

“[In] June, I kind of got sick. I had this horrible cold, sore-throat thing, and they were scoping me and they were doing biopsies, and nothing was coming up. And finally a doctor at USC did a biopsy and took a look and he said, ‘I believe you have oral cancer.’ And what it was is a tumor at the base of my tongue… This is very similar to Bruce Dickinson [Iron Maiden], very similar to [actor] Michael Douglas, similar to Tom Hamilton [Aeromsith], as far as I know; I don’t know the details of his. And two adjacent lymph nodes that it kind of… Normally, it does spread to the lymph nodes; that’s typical. That’s how you find out you have it ninety percent of the time.”

He continued, “I went down to USC, to all the doctors down there, and the first doctor I went to sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and he said, ‘You’ve had pretty good health all your life.’ He goes, ‘You picked one of hell of a cancer to get.’ He said, ‘It is very treatable, it’s very curable, but it is a son of a bitch to treat, and I’m gonna hurt you.’ And it scared the hell out of me. And I’m, like,’ What are you talking about?’ he goes, ‘About fifty percent of my patients wind up hospitalized through the treatments, ’cause you’ve gotta do chemo and radiation at the same time, or you’ve gotta do surgery. And sometimes when you do surgery, you still have to do chemo and radiation. So we’re gonna try chemo and radiation.’ So I wound up doing the chemo. I did nine rounds of chemo of cetuximab…and it’s a targeted immunotherapy, so it’s not like the typical chemical that just kills everything. But they said one problem it does have is you get a rash. And I’m, like, ‘A rash?’ They’re, like, ‘Yeah, you’re gonna look like a kid with really bad acne.’ So I started to get it on my face and on my chest and on my back and shoulders and a little bit on my trunk, and then, bam, in two weeks, it just calmed down for some reason. So I was very lucky with that. But then I started radiation, and I did thirty-five rounds of radiation; it was five days a week for seven weeks, and that kicks your dick into the dirt. But I went, ‘Okay, this is what I’m gonna do. I wanna beat it, so I’m just gonna go head first into this. I’m gonna set myself up where every single day, I do something positive for my health. I’m gonna work out one day, I’m gonna go to therapy one day.’ I go to this occupational therapy where they do swallowing and speech and stuff like that, to keep your neck going. Regular therapy, acupuncture…”

Discussing his current diagnosis:

“Where I’m at now is I went last week for my follow-up. Both doctors said I’m doing excellent, and they both have excellent prognosis. In early February, I get my PET scan, and that’s the end-all; that tells you if there’s any activity. They both said they suspect that there won’t be. And so I’ve got fingers crossed. But I’m just gonna try to put that out of my mind for now and just continue to get better and feel better. There’s nothing that looks like it’s there anymore. They’ve gone down, they’ve looked at my throat… But it’s swelled up and it’s hard to tell, but it looks like it’s in remission.”

Speaking about why he believes he got oral cancer:

“[HVP-human papilloma virus],it is the number one leading cause of oral cancer these days. There’s less and less of the truck drivers that chew tobacco for thirty years getting it, because people are more aware that that kind of stuff isn’t good. So we are getting marathon runners and all these elite athletes with this. I have a friend that’s a therapist, and five years ago, it was five percent of the people she treated, and now it’s close to ninety percent…It can be spread sexually, but now they’re saying that it can spread [through] deep-kissing and actually hand to mouth. I mean, if you see the Olympic swimmers, they swim and they smack their hand on the side of the pool for each lap, and their hands are full of warts and stuff from HPV. Now the wart kind of HPV is not the same as the strain that causes cancer, but it is spread almost identically. For men, you can’t tell if you have it. For women, you can get a papsmear. But the doctor estimated probably it was fifteen [or] twenty years ago [when I contracted it], and my body probably got rid of it, but it mutated itself and my body would probably see that again and get rid of it. But there’s no way to tell who got it. I mean, I know a couple that’s been married for fifteen years and they’ve never cheated on each other, and they’re pointing their finger at each other [after one of them was diagnosed with oral cancer], and it turned into a thing until the doctor sat ’em down and went, ‘Look, you can get this so many ways.'”

26 Responses

  1. Hang in there Rikki, don’t give up, keep fighting!

    My top 5 Poison songs:
    5) “Look But You Can’t Touch”
    4) “Talk Dirty To Me”
    3) “I Won’t Forget You” 😉
    2) “Nothin’ But A Good Time”
    1) “Ride The Wind”
    Another Fav – “Blind Faith!”

  2. Anything having to do with cancer is terrible but when these guys start talking about cunnillingis on filthy young ladies, the discusses changes to comical and disgusting. Regardless of seriousness, you should really keep that private. Blame smoking, processed meats, chewing tabacco, mustard or hard liquor. For real, if a guy or girl died from oral sex, everyone would know it and the funeral would become a joke. This is becoming mainstream now and throat cancer is painful as I understand so we all know about the dirty vagina theory but just say something else. It is okay to lie or assume another possibility.

    1. Sorry, I meant to say THE DISCUSSION CHANGES TO COMICAL AND DISGUSTING……the tablet changes your own words…

    2. Wow, aren’t you uptight. Who cares if it’s from oral sex? 7 billion people on the planet, and lots of sex happening, get over it.

    3. No, M.M. is right, these guys brag about their sexual prowess, their escapades, all that action, and then they scare the crap out of everybody when they catch something, which is completely unnecessary.

    4. Not a sex issue. Once you say that you got cancer from mouth sex on a filthy vagina, people are going to laugh no matter what. I think that that demeans a serious situation. Everyone knows by now that it is possible to get cancer from oral sex on an unclean lady part so by saying you’re a rock star and your tongue has cancer from that you focus off a more serious issue. Men who are seriously addicted to cigarettes say that got throat cancer from oral sex so that they can justify smoking again. That is dangerous.

    5. That is a total DOUG R. move and God bless him and you. JAMES made a respectable point as well. Cancer is scary but it becomes ridiculous when Michael Douglas, a heavy smoker that still smokes following throat cancer blames the source of his children for making him ill. It is degrading to women to say that stuff. Like THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE STATEN ISLAND CLOWN pointed out these guys demean woman by tossing them aside after they serve their purpose and now they want to blame those same women for making them sick. Double-Degradation. Even if it is true, take the high road and call it LIFESTYLE ISSUES or EXCESSIVE PARTYING. At least the NFL dedicates a month to women’s health issues. Rock stars just cast women aside and then accuse them of giving them cancer. It is awful and I WON’T GET OVER IT!

    6. Absolutely, if you’re going to “OPEN UP AND SAY… AHH!” You’d better know and be sure of what you’re putting in your mouth! 😉


    7. This conversation has taken a turn for the worse-LOL!

      This is a serious medical issue and I could do without terms like “dirty vagina.” In order to have a mature discourse, please try to refrain from tacky jokes and inappropriate terminology.

      Dana 🙂

    8. In fairness, I believe he used the term ‘filthy’ and not ‘dirty’. But point taken. In all honesty this is the best conversation about Poison I’ve ever been involved in.

    9. Totally agree Dana, it is a serious medical issue, all I’m saying is you can’t be too careful, especially today.

    10. Dental dam? are you kidding? this is what I’m talking about, because some rock star gets something this applies to the gen. population? I’ll take my chances.

    11. Shannon,

      Did you notice my winky emoji after the comment?

      Also, dental dams were something that were being discussed in my Human Sexuality and Reproduction class back in college. They have been recommended for decades as a result of the AIDS epidemic back in the ’80’s. This is nothing new and it has nothing to do with celebrity influence.

      D 🙂

    12. The 80s was a long time ago, we know a lot more about AIDS now. and the celebrity influence is because these guys who got so much action that they put themselves at a much higher risk, scare the crap out of everybody when they say they catch something, and thus, the average person starts worrying needlessly.

    13. Actually, that is not true, even people who are not sexually promiscuous are at risk. If one is carrying the virus, all it takes is one partner, to be exposed. HVP is carried by a lot of folks, just like Herpes Simplex 1 (the virus that causes mouth sores) is carried by most the population. Hopefully, those numbers will decrease as most teenagers are being encouraged to get vaccinated.

      Also, I don’t see this as fear mongering. You are presented with the information, as you can do with as you see fit. There is more information about the dangers of smoking then ever before, and it hasn’t scared millions of people off from paying almost $15 to inhale something they know is detrimental to their health.

    14. Lol…I’m still trying to figure out how the emoji would’ve helped M.M in his comment.

    15. I would imagine it would be far less embarrassing to admit that you got it from smoking, rather than an STD. Many people whom have had oral or throat cancer still continue to smoke. It’s a sad reality, but expected, as it seems cigarettes are one of the hardest addictions to quit. Ozzy even admitted it was easier to quit heroin than cigarettes.

      If you pass by Memorial Sloan Kettering, which is a very famous cancer hospital in Manhattan, you will see people in wheelchairs with bald heads from chemo smoking, as well as, the oncologists and nurses. The point is if Rockett got it from smoking, I cannot imagine he would say he got if from an STD, like you say Michael Douglas did, so he could continue to smoke. Again, I would imagine it would be far less shameful to admit you got it from cigarettes, which millions of people are addicted to, than to admit you got it from an STD.

      Finally, I think Eddie Van Halen attributed his tongue cancer to keeping a metal pick in his mouth, but also smoked like a chimney. He apparently still smokes as well, but only e-cigarettes, which come with their own health issues. Here are some quotes from 2015 story from CNN:

      “I used metal picks — they’re brass and copper — which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer. Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy. So that’s one theory.”…[However], he did acknowledge that a four-decade-long smoking habit and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle probably didn’t help….He’s been sober since 2008 and calls himself a “T-shirt and jeans guy.” He still smokes, but only e-cigarettes. http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/22/entertainment/feat-5-things-eddie-van-halen-billboard/

    16. I apologize for using offensive language but that is the point that I am trying to make. A lot of people will say insane nonsense about throat cancer to justify smoking again. My own brother was a horrible smoker and while in MEMORIAL SLOAN KETTERING for throat cancer, he tried to blame processed meats and unclean women and I guess that’s part of the addiction of smoking. 10 years later he is doing very well and quit smoking but his girlfriend is the topic of merciless jokes because of his ridiculous comments. Yes I am joker, but I actually was attempting to be serious and respectful towards women. The crude language was an attempt to enhance my argument. Believe me, this is no joking matter but I feel it becomes one when these guys make that oral sex argument.

    17. Gotcha. See, the problem with the written word, as opposed to verbal dialog, is one cannot always detect tone and sarcasm. Next time, use an emoji. 🙂

      Glad to hear your brother is better, that is wonderful. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away in that hospital. He had cancer of the larynx from smoking. He quit after his diagnosis, went into remission for about 10 years, or so, to only have it recur in his bladder. It ultimately took his life so, the lesson is, don’t smoke and use a dental dam. 😉

      D 🙂

  3. Great article thanks you for sharing this Eddie. I was listening to you on the way to my workout and missed everything after USC. Happy for Rikki and his that he is looking at possibly a full recovery. Was never a big Poison, although, I saw them at least twice. Once with DLR second DLr line-up. Always noticed from their first video on MTV in the mid 80’s Rikki had great technique and style. Underestimated as a drummer and clinician, and hell, a drum manufacturer.

    God Bless Rikki and best wishes and positive thoughts sent yer way fellow drummer. \nllm/

  4. Damn. I’m not gonna pretend to be a Poison fan, because I’m not. But cancer is scary, no matter how a person got it and I hope Rikki gets through this and gets 100% healthy. Best wishes.

  5. Shannon, that dental dam exchange with Dana was really funny. You should have written the whole thing in capital letters displaying more emotion but you definitely got the job done. As I’ve been saying this whole time, that oral sex argument transforms a serious cancer discussion into slapstick comedy featuring fast food and debates over”dirty” as opposed to “filthy” private parts. All of us will agree that all cancers are serious and best wishes to anybody dealing with cancer. It is also important to respect an entire gender of women and take ressponsibilty for your own actions.

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