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Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi Delves Into Cancer Battle

Tim Whitby, Getty Images

Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi is on the road to recovery now, but the guitar great says there was definitely some periods of doubt as he began his treatment for lymphoma.

Iommi tells Guitar World that the initial diagnosis really hit him hard. He recalls, “Once I heard my doctor say that, my whole world changed. I thought, ‘Bloody cancerous lymphoma? Well that’s it. I’ve had it.'” But rather than dwell on it, the treatment for his cancer began immediately and so did his will to fight for his life.

“It knocked me about,” says Iommi of the treatment. “I’d go through stages thinking, ‘Can I do this?’ And then, ‘Of course I can do this, I don’t want to die. I want to carry on and do what I’m supposed to do.'” However, as the guitarist began to see improvement resulting from his treatment, he started to get the creative itch again. He says his fellow bandmates initially expected a lengthy layoff, but once he got clearance from his doctor he immediately began working on new music.

Bassist Geezer Butler, who was in Heaven and Hell with Iommi when Ronnie James Dio got sick and died from cancer, says that while Dio’s fate was on his mind, working on music helped Iommi get past his diagnosis. “We didn’t know how he’d respond to the treatment,” says Butler. “So it was like, ‘Let’s get the album done at all costs, so long as Tony’s up to it. So we’d write for three weeks and then he’d go for his treatment and we’d all have three weeks off. But it didn’t affect his playing at all. In fact, I think it really encouraged him and kept his mind off the cancer, which is the best thing you can possibly do if you have that.”

A rejuvenated Iommi and his bandmates worked at their own pace to complete the ’13’ album and the disc is now due June 11.

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