Welcome to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. This episode is brought to you in partnership with Bayer. Today, our guest host is Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French. He’s a rocker and author and a prostate cancer survivor.
Prostate Cancer: Uncensored podcast unfiltered discussions with researchers, caregivers, patients, and medical professionals about prostate cancer. Listen online, or subscribe and download on your favorite podcasting platform; episodes are available for listening on Apple Podcasts, Anchor.fm, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, PlayerFM, Pocket Casts, Spotify, PodBean, RadioPublic, and more.
Jay Jay French:
Hello, everyone. I’m Jay Jay French, and it’s time for some straight talk about prostate cancer with my guest and fellow rocker and fellow prostate cancer survivor, the great metal god himself, Rob Halford from Judas Priest. Welcome, Rob.
Hello, Jay Jay. Hi, everybody. Thanks for inviting me today.
Rob, I just want to start off by saying to you that when you were a guest on my podcast last year, that remains the highest-rated podcast I have done, okay?
Hey, thank you. That’s beautiful. Congratulations, Jay Jay.
My wife pointed that out to me yesterday. When she was looking at my numbers, she said, “Do you realize Rob Halford is still your number one?” I went, “Great, well, that’s wonderful.” That’s actually great that you did. Also, I want to mention that when you played in New Jersey recently on March 31st, I was still in Mexico. I couldn’t make the show.
Mark Mendoza, my bass player, came down and saw the show and said it was fabulous. The fact that you’re out there, you’re doing it, I’m a little jealous that you guys are doing it. He said you’re doing it at the same level you did it back when we first played with you guys in ’79, which has to be extremely gratifying for you, I’m sure.
It is. It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing. I’m involved in this great place that Judas Priest is currently celebrating. Our ongoing 50 years of heavy metal is the condition of not only myself but all of us in the band. The health side of life is so important. After having gone through what I did not too long ago, I’m grateful and blessed to be able to do the work. As a result of going through the recovery process and the stars aligning and the calendar being in the right place, I was able to go out there and do my work now, probably with even more intensity because, man, to come through the other side of that challenge was, without a doubt, a life-changer.
I’ve always lived life to the max every day of my life. It’s so important for me to get even the smallest thing out of the day, whatever it might be. To be in this opportunity is just an extra boost, man. You feel that even more now when you go out on stage, and you’re so grateful to be able to continue doing the work that you love.
Isn’t it interesting that at this point in our lives, we never probably could have envisioned the kind of impact we would have on people that would cover concerns about their health? You follow me?
Where now, when I get emails from people telling me, “Jay Jay, thank you so much for talking about this because it’s made my husband get checked,” or someone would write to me and say, “Because you decided to discuss your prostate cancer, I proceeded and thank you so much.” I never expected that in my life. I could never have projected that would be the most important thing I’ve ever done in a way in my life.
Yes, this is just an incredible bonus amongst a lot of things. When, again, you’re blessed with success, our fans have given us such a great life, gave Jay Jay a great life with Twisted Sister, you literally do become a family. You may not meet your fans, but it’s like a family. We share our stories through music, the songs that you guys write, the songs that Priest write.
People listen to that song and they go, “Yes, that song is talking to me. That message relates to me in my life,” and so that starts to happen as you progress. We talk about the heavy metal community and that’s just what it is in so much as we’re always looking out for each other. We’re always trying to do whatever we can to support each other no matter what it might be. Whether it’s just a simple text or a DM on social media or anything of that nature just keeps us close together.
As a result of that, all families go through certain things in their lives and the similarities are just remarkable. You probably witnessed that on your travels around the world, Jay, that the world is such a small place. We’re all people. It’s humanity and so many of us, practically all of us live the same kinds of lives in the essence of challenges, and especially challenges in health. To be at this place now where we can take this opportunity and bring awareness to prostate cancer is just a really important thing to do.
Who knew? We take it, we grasp it. We take the gift of communication. We spread the good word and the good news about how all cancer treatments have incredibly improved through the decades since I was a kid, probably the same for you, Jay Jay, and everybody listening in. Here we are now to talk about what we need to talk about and keep spreading the news about getting the checks and so on and so forth.
Yes, so it is so interesting. Social media is now the thing. Of course, back when we were starting, social media really didn’t exist. In fact, if you had a bad night, no one knew about it for months and months and months. Now, if you, in any way, do something with any indiscretion, everyone knows about it in five seconds. There’s a good and there’s a bad side to it.
You and I both, on top of having very long careers, 50 years in this business, we both had books out recently. In my book, I mentioned prostate cancer as an afterthought to the very, very, very end of the book. Although when I was diagnosed, I had started my book way before I was diagnosed. What year actually were you diagnosed? Take me through the point that you found out about it and then had to deal with it. What year was that and how did that happen?
My PSA levels were starting to get elevated many, many years before I finally had a checkup with my doctor. He took the blood tests and he goes, “Man, these numbers are really high. I’m going to take you to my guy.” I want to say it was close to 10 years when my PSA levels were starting to get elevated. I was living in San Diego at the time. My doctor there, he as well said, “Rob, we need to keep an eye on this. I don’t like the look of these numbers. Can you come in and see me and we’ll run some tests?”
This is on the eve of a big world tour, so what do you do? “Yes, Doc, yes, I’ll just get this tour completed and I’ll come and see you.” As you know, Jay, when we go on these world tours, they can take a year, two years, three years to complete. Through all that whole touring process, I never got the follow-ups that I needed to get done, done. Let me quickly say that it’s a guy thing, right? It’s a guy thing. I’m a 70-year-old metalhead. I come from a generation where men, we didn’t talk about these kinds of things.
We never really talked about our health. We always found it difficult to open up emotionally, let alone anything else. On top of all of the things that I was dealing with on the road and having a great time, I knew this was lurking in the back of my mind. Anyway, so we’re talking about three years back now maybe. I see my new doctor in Phoenix and he runs the test again and he goes, “I’ve got to get you in to see my guy.” That’s when this incredible journey started for me to battle the prostate cancer.
Let me ask you this. For me, right after the surgery was done, for the first six months, I didn’t want my wife to talk about it with anyone else but my family. I was very, very protective of this, which is weird thinking about how I deal with it now, which is I’m screaming to the world, “You got to take care of yourself.” Back then, I didn’t want to talk about it for almost a year. I didn’t talk about it. Did you go through a period of that or did you say to yourself, “You know what? From the get-go, I’m going to be out about it.” Tell me how you processed it because I had a hard time for a short period of time in processing it.
Well, [laughs] I’m a gay. [laughs] We gays, we throw it out. We throw it out. That might sound a little bit odd, but part of my personality and my sexual identity has just given me this. I don’t hold anything back and part of my sobriety is living your day in the most truthful, honest way that you see fit for yourself. Sure, if you don’t want to share some things, you don’t have to, but I looked upon this whole experience as something that I really wanted to put out.
Having said that, we did keep the lid on it for the band, for the business side of things until the appropriate moment came along for me to discuss it. You probably noticed, Jay, in recent years that, again, these issues of health, cancer, for example, musicians talk more openly about the health challenges that they’re going through. I was trying to make the timing work. I was trying to make it happen that was
comfortable and beneficial to everybody. Initially, I was telling everybody, my immediate family, my immediate close circle of friends just because, for me, that was therapy. That was therapy.
I can’t thank you enough, Rob, for being a guest. I really, really appreciate it. I loved your perspective. I love what you brought to this. It’s important for people to hear it.
Thank you, Jay Jay. Thank you, everybody. Stay safe, stay hard, stay metal. Get that prostate checked and do all the other good things. Okay, love you, guys. See you.
You’ve been listening to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. This episode is brought to you in partnership with Bayer. To learn more about prostate cancer and to download more episodes of Prostate Cancer Uncensored, go to zerocancer.org.