Words: Lee Marlow
Former UFO bass player Pete Way is suffering from cancer.
The legendary four-stringer was told he has cancer of the prostate after tests this summer. He is having treatment and feels “good, positive and determined to beat it,” he told Classic Rock this weekend.
Release of Way’s new album Walking On The Edge has been postponed until early in the New Year so he can undergo more treatment, specifically a month-long series of radiotherapy sessions to shrink the tumour, and more hormone medication.
Speaking to Classic Rock from the south coast, where he is recuperating, Way was upbeat and in good spirits.
“I’m lucky,” said Way, 62. “This is prostate cancer. It’s not lung cancer. It’s not pancreatic cancer. If you’re going to get cancer, this is the best one you can have – and they caught it early.”
The cancer was spotted by accident, Pete revealed. Doctors were far more concerned about the state of his battered liver, enlarged by hepatitis and years of abuse. Routine liver scans picked up the tumour on his prostate.
“My liver has been the area of most concern over the years,” he said. “But they did a scan of that whole area around my abdomen and that’s when they found it.
“They didn’t tell me then. I went home and a few days later they sent me a letter saying I had to see the specialist and it ‘might be an idea to bring someone with me to the hospital.’
“Even then, it didn’t click, I thought they just wanted me to bring someone to drive me home.”
At the hospital, the consultant broke the news that Way had prostate cancer.
It didn’t sink in at first, he said. “I just said: ‘Okay, just give me the pills and let me get on with it.’ I still don’t think it’s really sunk in, you know. I just carry on. I keep going day by day and I try not to think about it.
“People ask me how I’m coping and that’s how I’m coping. I just get on with it – you have to don’t you? There isn’t another option.
“I get some stomach ache at times – it feels like Mike Tyson has hit me in the stomach some days – but I feel okay, I feel good. At least when I get stomach ache, I’m allowed to have a beer or two because it relaxes my stomach!
“It’s frustrating because it has put the release of the album back by a couple of months, but I can’t go out on tour if I’m having treatment. I’m going to start radiotherapy soon, which means they will blast the area with radiotherapy every day for a month to try to shrink the tumour.”
Way said he wants to speak out the cancer, the treatment and how he feels because he wants other men to do what he never thought about doing – to get themselves checked.
“I was lucky – they were checking my liver, not my prostate. They found it by accident. I didn’t think I had any symptoms but when I spoke to the doctors, and they were asking me all those questions, I did have the symptoms. I just didn’t know what they were.”
In the last big Classic Rock interview with Way – June 2013, issue 184 – references were made to him slipping off to the toilet at random, but frequent, intervals.
“I know you picked that up – but I wasn’t nipping off to the bogs to snort up a crafty line of coke. It’s because I was dying to pee.
“This is one of the symptoms – a constant need to urinate – and then standing there, and just doing a few drops. Ha-ha-ha – I bet you don’t write about this in Classic Rock very often do you?
“Anyway, I had that for weeks, months, even. I just ignored it. I just thought it was one of those things. Just a sign of getting older. It wasn’t. It’s a classic early symptom of either prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate.
“I was upset at first. It made me depressed. But I’m determined to carry on, to beat it, to get my album out and tour.
“It happens a lot to men my age, 50 and over. I was telling Mike Clink about [legendary UFO and then Guns N’ Roses producer/engineer, who is twiddling the knobs for Way’s new album) and Mike said: ‘Man, more or less every man I know in California has this. Don’t worry Pete – you’ll be fine.’ Everyone has been really positive. And that makes me feel positive, too.”
It’s funny, he says. All the booze and drugs he’s taken over the year – and it’s cancer of the prostate that has stopped him in his tracks, sent him to-ing and fro-ing to the hospital.
“You couldn’t make it up, could you?”