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Judas Priest’s Rob Halford Quietly Battled Cancer During the Pandemic

The Metal God had prostate cancer, which thankfully is in remission now

Rob Halford of Judas Priest cancer battle
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, photo by Steven J. Messina
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    Amidst the headline-making emergency health crisis of Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner last month, it turns out frontman Rob Halford recently went through a very significant health battle of his own. In fact, the metal legend quietly battled prostate cancer during the pandemic.

    Heavy Consequence recently caught up with the Metal God for an interview about the band’s brand-new 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music box set, and he casually told us, “I had my little cancer battle a year ago, which I got through and that’s in remission now, thank God. That happened while we were all locked down, so things happen for a reason as far as time sequence of events. I have nothing but gratitude to be at this point in my life, still doing what I love the most.”

    Say what? While Halford hadn’t previously mentioned his cancer battle publicly, it turns out the details were revealed in the new chapter added to the just-released updated paperback edition of Halford’s 2020 memoir, Confess, in which he writes, with great specificity and some humor, about being diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer during the spring of 2020, and again earlier this year.

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    The diagnosis, Halford writes, came after extensive testing that followed symptoms dating back to 2017. “How did I feel?” he writes. “I felt a combination of shock, horror, and oddly, relief — at least now I know!…’Am I going to die?’ It was all I could think of. I know blokes who’ve died of prostate cancer. ‘No, you’re not going to die, Rob,’ said Dr. Ali.” Halford chose prostatectomy surgery, which was successful on July 5th, 2020, to remove the cancer rather than radiation therapy. (Spoiler alert: There are descriptions about catheter and other probing device procedures that are not for the faint of heart.)

    The new chapter also reveals that more cancer on his prostate bed was found earlier this year, and that Halford went through radiation treatments during April and May, getting an all-clear in June just before he traveled to visit family in England. He also had an appendectomy after a tumor was discovered on his appendix.

    “It’s been a draining year, I can’t deny it, but I’m delighted to have come through it,” Halford writes. “I feel like I’ve had the most thorough MOT that a Metal God can have.”

    The 70-year-old Halford acknowledges that he had dark moments, especially right after the diagnosis. “I was getting proper mardy [British slang for sulky] and wallowing in my anger,” he writes, but adds that he got a “reality check” after watching a commercial for the Phoenix Children’s hospital. “It showed kids with cancer. Some only babies. They were lying there, with tubes coming out of them, fighting for their lives. They didn’t know what was going on…It made me feel totally ashamed of myself; Rob, how dare you be so selfish? And from that second, I change my entire mental attitude towards my disease.”

    Halford further writes that he “told hardly anyone I had cancer,” save for his partner, Thomas, and family members. He had Priest management tell the other band members. In the new chapter, he urges male readers to have their prostate checked and promises he’ll be continuing to monitor his health via regular examinations and annual check-ups.

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    Judas Priest are celebrating their 50th anniversary, though their North American tour came to a halt on September 26th at the Louder Than Life Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, when Faulkner suffered a ruptured aorta onstage while performing “Painkiller,” the set’s final song. He went through more than 10 hours of open heart surgery and is at home in Nashville resting.

    Priest plan to reschedule the postponed shows for 2022 and are currently hoping to be ready to go for their twice-delayed European tour with Ozzy Osbourne, starting January 26th in Berlin, Germany.

    Meanwhile, the group just released the 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music box set today (October 15th), a massive 42-disc collection featuring all of its studio and official live albums as well as a selection of unreleased concerts and rare unreleased live material. Reflections, a more modest 2-LP set, culls 15 tracks from the box.

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    Pick up the 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music box set or the Reflections collection here, and Rob Halford’s new paperback edition (featuring the new chapter on his cancer battle) of his autobiography, Confess, via Amazon. Stay tuned for our full interview with the Judas Priest frontman.

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