It was just about three years ago when musician and former Monkee Peter Tork was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, adenoid cystic carcinoma, tongue cancer. The Connecticut resident was successfully treated, boasts a clean bill of health and has teamed up with the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance to encourage Americans to take advantage of free screenings during Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week. Several hospitals and clinics in Connecticut are offering the free screenings and Tork is Spilling the Beans with Java to persuade residents to get checked out.
Q: When and how did you find out about your cancer?
A: Shoved a camera down my throat. It was a little over three years ago, January 2009. Before that I had noticed I was having a hard time swallowing and would have to chew my food really fine but that didn’t bother me. Then a friend noticed my voice was beginning to change. I noticed a lump, researched and found a doctor, they put a camera down my throat and diagnosed it.
Q: And now?
A: I have got it all. I am singing better than ever and as my mother would say, am jumping around like a pork chop and still performing with my band, Shoe Suede Blues.
Q: What surprised you most during it all?
A: I don’t know. Someone once asked me it having cancer changed my philosophy of life. It didn’t. I had a good cry but knew my philosophy about life was big enough to deal with it.
Q: Several hospitals and clinics across the country and in Connecticut are offering free screenings for cancer of the mouth, tongue and head. Your suggestion?
A: My cancer was a very slow growing one and I probably had it a while before it was diagnosed. The screening only takes 10 minutes and it is free and painless. While there are symptoms, why wait and instead be proactive. I guess everyone has a certain amount of “I don’t want to know” if cancer is a possibility but detecting it early could mean saving your life. I was lucky.
Q: Between your cancer treatment and more recently, the passing of your friend and Monkee partner Davy Jones, you have had quite a couple of years. Any thoughts?
A: Davy’s passing was hard. The rest of us, Micky, myself, and Mike Nesmith got together in California to attend a very private ceremony for Davy with some other friends and associates from the early days. At the end of the service 66 balloons were released, one for each year of Davy’s life. When some of the balloons got caught in the trees. Micky said, ”He’s not leaving while the lights are still on.”
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: Be a hero to yourself and take advantage of the screenings. We spend our lives watching out for the other guy. The subtext to this is you are in charge of your life and you have the right to tend to your own well-being. For myself, I am looking for a lot more good to come in my life.
Screenings are available through April 28. Go to www.headandneck.org for sites where free screenings are being offered.
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