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The Monkee who sings better than ever because he had throat cancer

August 18, 2011 by  
Filed under news feed, peter


Having long ago turned his back on his wild rock past, Peter Tork had every reason to think he was in reasonably good health.

But two years ago, The Monkees star received terrifying news — the dry throat and husky voice he’d developed were signs of cancer of the neck. The diagnosis was ‘a real jolt’, says the 69-year-old.

His symptoms first appeared in the autumn of late 2008.


It also took time for Peter to fully get back the power of speech. ‘For months, I was speaking with a lisp,’ he says.

‘It was a matter of me learning how to get my tongue under control again. I did my vocal exercises and the doctors decided I didn’t need speech therapy. It was a tough time but my daughter, Hallie, 41, was a real support to me.’

Three months after the operation, Peter began radiotherapy, where high-energy beams are targeted around the site of a tumour to ensure all the cancerous cells are removed.

He was given a new radiation treatment called proton therapy, which uses half the usual rate of radiation, precisely targeted so that healthy tissue is spared.

Proton therapy is not widely used in the UK, but patients may be offered the similar Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, says Professor Langdon.

‘It’s a state-of-the-art way of delivering radiotherapy with  minimal damage to the surrounding tissue,’ he says.

Peter was given two 90-second bursts of radiation five days a week, over a six-week period — with only minor side effects.

‘There was a sunburn-effect on my neck, but I could still play the odd gig with my other band, the Shoe Suede Blues,’ he says.

In the autumn of 2009, Peter was given the all-clear.

‘It was a huge relief,’ says the musician, who has three regular check-ups a year to make sure the cancer is still in remission.

However, the cancer has left its mark. Peter has a six-inch scar on his neck.

‘The cancer has also done a number on my salivary glands,’ he says.

‘I often have a dry mouth. That’s permanent.’

But crucially, the tumour doesn’t appear to have harmed Peter’s voice — he sings on one in four of The Monkees songs: ‘I sometimes have a bit of trouble hitting the upper mid-range notes — but I think I’m singing better than ever.’

The short and medium-term survival rates for ACC victims are excellent.

‘There is an 80 to 90 per cent survival rate over five years,’ says Professor Langdon.

‘More than ten years, the survival rate is as high as 60 per cent.’

‘However, while it might be one of the slowest-growing cancers, it’s invariably fatal in the long term.

‘No one can claim that they have ever cured a patient. ACC returns in an incurable way over the next 15 to 20 years.’

But Peter is happy in the knowledge that his treatment has at least given him another ten or more years — and is determined to keep on rocking.
via The Monkee who sings better than ever because he had throat cancer | Mail Online.

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