Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford Battling Prostate Cancer: ‘I’ve Never Felt Pain Like That’
RAGE AGAINST THE Machine bassist Tim Commerford had his prostate removed after being diagnosed with cancer prior to the band’s big reunion tour earlier this year.
Commerford revealed his health battle in a new interview with Spin, saying he underwent surgery two months before the Rage tour began. “[M]y doctors said I wasn’t going to be ready. That was brutal. I would be on stage looking at my amp in tears. Then you just kind of turn around and suck it up.”
Commerford didn’t say exactly when he was diagnosed, though the cancer was discovered after he watched his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test numbers rise steadily over the course of a year-and-a-half until reaching a point where he couldn’t get life insurance.
“Eventually, they did a biopsy and found out I had cancer, so they took my prostate out,” he said. “I had been thinking, well, because they’re watching it and let it get to this point, maybe it’s not that big of a deal. I blame myself. I should have said, ‘My numbers are elevated, and what does that really mean?’ I should have taken it more seriously. I should have looked into alternate therapy instead of getting sucked into the most disgusting, capitalistic machine on the face of the planet: the medical establishment.”
While Commerford said he just got a six-month test that “came back zero,” he admitted he has to keep holding his breath for another six months for another follow-up test.
“I’m just trying to grab ahold of the reins,” he said. “It’s gonna be a long journey, I hope. My dad died in his early 70s from cancer, and my mom died from cancer in her 40s. Split the difference to 65 and I’ve got 10 years. I’m trying to get to the 100-song mark — I have some goals now. Songwriting has become a catharsis for me. Back to the original question, how do I find the time? That’s all I’ve got, is time.” (Along with Rage’s reunion tour, Commerford recently launched a new side project, 7D7D.)
Along with his family, Commferford’s Rage Against the Machine bandmates, as well as a close group of friends, were aware of his diagnosis. It was otherwise kept quiet, and Commerford had intended to keep it that way until he watched this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on TV.
“Duran Duran was on and I was like, ‘Ah, fuck, I used to learn those songs when I was a kid. I saw them on stage and wondered, where’s Andy Taylor and why do they have this other guy in here?!’ Then it was like, ‘Andy Taylor is suffering from stage four prostate cancer and is unable to make it.’ My life is sort of like that. There are a lot of people who have it. There are a lot of people who are like, ‘Where do you go?’ You can’t talk to a therapist. You can only really talk to someone who’s going through it.”
Commerford said he does have a solid support system that even includes Lance Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer (“[H]e gave me some great advice that probably is going to extend my life,” Commerford said). Still, he acknowledged the extreme emotional and physical toll the diagnosis has taken already.
“[P]rostate cancer is a very, very, very tough one because it’s connected to your sexuality,” he said. “It’s hard to disconnect from that, and when you’re forced into that situation, it’s a brutal psychological journey. I’ve been trying to find support groups, and it’s hard to find people and hard to talk about it. The suffering part of it, the physical suffering after the surgery, I’ve never felt pain quite like that. I have metal plates in my head and cadaver parts in my body. I’ve done a lot of damage through sports and mountain biking and this sort of thing and I’ve always felt like I had a really high tolerance for pain, and that shit brought me to my knees. After the pain went away, I still haven’t really been able to get up, even though I’m working out and doing shit, but psychologically, the damage is severe. It’s very hard for me to not break down and get emotional.”