Peter Criss Ė
legendary drummer and founding member of KISS Ė recently revealed heíd
undergone a battle with breast cancer. A disease wrongly perceived as
only affecting women, Criss is part of the 1% of males diagnosed with
the malady each year. Now pronounced cancer free, Criss, in the middle
of finishing off a new solo album, spoke with Pop Entertainment
correspondent, Ken Sharp.
How are you doing
Iím working today
and that to me is a gift because it makes me go down to my recording
studio and get this rock and roll album going so I can get this out in
the summer. I did all the major tracks last year and then I had Richie
Scarlet come over a few months ago and put down bass on ten songs. The
record is very heavy, not metal. But itís heavier than what I usually do
and Iím very excited about it.
You were diagnosed
with breast cancer in February 2008.
Yeah, itís been
tough. I said on the news that I had breast cancer and didnít tell a
soul beside my family and that was not easy. I once had a run-in with
the tabloids in the Ď80s where they were saying I was sleeping in
toilets and I had to sue them. (Ed. Note: This person was
revealed to be an imposter.) I told my wife Gigi, ďLook what they did to
(Patrick) Swayze and Farrah Fawcett.Ē We never mentioned anything about
this until I got my big checkup and I was clear. This month is Breast
Cancer awareness and I felt now was the time to say something.
Like many others,
I never realized than men could get breast cancer.
Yeah, me neither.
I didnít know that either but Iíve been educating myself more and more
about it. But getting back to your first question, Iím a physical guy.
Iíve been half naked onstage and been in spandex all my life. I really
know my body well. Iím still in phenomenal shape and go to the gym at
least four days a week and Iím drumming pretty much every day in my home
studio. One day I get back from the gym and I laid down in bed watching
the news and felt my left nipple and it was hard as a rock. I felt a
lump in it and it hurt a lot and I thought, ďWhat is this?Ē I thought I
may have had a cyst and could have hurt myself lifting weights. Breast
cancer was the furthest thought from my mind. Iím really lucky I have my
wife, Gigi. I told her about it and she was going to the gynecologist so
she said, ďCome with me.Ē When we got there her doctor checked me out
and she said, ďYou know Peter, if my husband had this I would only send
him to one place and thatís it.Ē I started getting a little nervous at
this point. She said, ďIím gonna send you over to Dr. Alex Swistel who
is the head of New York-Presbyterian, the greatest hospital on the
planet. This guy was my angel come true. I go to see him and in the
visiting room are all women and theyíre all bald and itís really
depressing. I was the only guy there and I was really scared. I thought:
God, what did I do? I donít get high. I go to church. Iíve got a
wonderful big house. Iíve got money. Iíve got a beautiful wife and a
granddaughter whoís now two years-old. Please donít lay this on me. Dr.
Swistel checks me out and sends me to this place in Jersey to do a
biopsy. I had the biopsy and the report came back that I was cool, all
they had to do was go in there and remove it. I was happy to hear that.
I knew all along it was a cyst. Dr. Swistel does the operation and
everythingís great and I go home that same night. Less than a week later
he calls and goes, ďAre you sitting or standing?Ē Iíll tell you, if
someone tells you that your bells go off immediately: Oh my God,
something wrong! He told me, ďLook Peter, you have cancer. But donít
pass out on me because you caught it immediately so you wonít need chemo
or to lose that great black Italian hair.Ē He said he had to operate on
me again to literally remove the nipple and go into my breast and take
the lymph nodes out under my arms. Now Iím going in again and now I know
I have cancer. My blood pressure must have been about a million. I was
so scared going in for this. I went in for the operation and went home
that same night. He called me a few days later and said, ďYou are cool.
Thereís no cancer, Iíve got everything.Ē
My slogan is early
detection. You need to go immediately and have yourself checked out,
donít sit around and act like itís gonna go away in two weeks.Ē
Bullshit! Men need to get regular check-ups. Itís only 1% of men who are
diagnosed with breast cancer but that can always go up so you need to
stay on it.
All this time I
did a lot of praying. After recently getting a clean bill of health, I
wanted to step forward and tell the world about this. First we put the
news out on my web site (www.petercriss.net)
and then it became Pandoraís Box. The next thing I became flooded to be
a spokesperson. Iím doing as much as I can do for Breast Cancer
Awareness Month. I donít want to be a crusader. I donít want to be a
holy roller. I donít need a pat on the bat or more accolades. I just
want to tell my story and hoping this will help educate and raise
awareness for guys about Breast Cancer as thereís no literature in a
doctorís office on this problem, itís all for women. I would love to see
that change. I would like to see guys, no matter who they are, to get
off the couch if he feels something in his nipple to under his arm or
near his privates and get checked out.
Right. I mean, I
was a superhero with KISS; theyíve got comic books about me. It can
happen to anybody. Men can be stupid and ignorant not to do anything
about it. You have to go see someone right away. If I didnít go see
someone right away you wouldnít be talking to me now.
Going through this
battle, how has it affected the way you live your life now?
Going through it
was very depressing. I was seeing an analyst, not a psychiatrist because
they give you drugs and I donít want drugs. I want to talk about it.
That went on for awhile and that really helped me. Now I look at things
like this: the past is gone and the future we donít know. I concentrate
on the present and look at every day that I wake up as spare time for me
to have a fucking field day. I told you earlier that I was working on a
new CD. For a while I didnít have a lot of the words done but now Iíve
been down in the studio working on lyrics and Iím getting very close to
putting down vocals.
Youíve become even
Yeah. Iím at the
gym every day. I always was a physical guy. I eat very well. I eat a lot
of fruit, salads, chicken and fish, not a lot of meat. IĎve taken
vitamins for the last 40 years. You need to take of yourself. My
attitude has really changed. How can I not be so grateful? Iíve also got
a book in the works too.
What message would
you like to tell people?
Cancer is nothing
to fool around with, itíll kill you. I have to impress upon people once
again that early detection is so important. If you feel a lump somewhere
immediately go to a doctor and get checked. If I didnít do it myself I
wouldnít be here today.
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