QUIET RIOT drummer Frankie Banali spoke about his battle with stage four pancreatic cancer during a November 20 appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation". A few excerpts from the chat follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On where he is in his treatment:
Banali: "The way the chemo works now is you go into the hospital, as I did yesterday morning, and from the time we walked in, checked in, checked out, it was almost six hours. And that's the first step of the chemo. Then, as soon as that's done, they take that same chemo formula and they put it in a pump. And so I'm wearing this fanny bag not as a fashion statement. The fluid that you see going though the line goes to a port that's in my chest. And then this thing that looks like a vein isn't a vein — that's an actual tube that goes to an artery in my neck. And then another tube goes to my heart. And so the chemo is constantly being pumped through my entire body through my heart — it's using that as a propulsion. So I am now here doing your interview on chemo eight, day two."
On regaining his weight after losing 60 pounds during the earlier stages of his treatment:
Banali: "After previous events, after doing seven rounds of chemo — we stopped at seven about two and a half months ago because I had gone down to 135 pounds and my oncologist felt that I was too weak to go on to the next level. And during that period of time, I had two tubes that were inserted into my sides because I had some fluid that was leaking from various areas into my abdominal cavity that was being caused by the tumor in my pancreas and the tumor in my liver pushing on different organs. What that meant was that I couldn't eat any solid foods, because the tumor was pushing down and wouldn't allow me to get any food into my stomach. So I went down to 135 pounds.
"On April 17th, when I was diagnosed, I was a very healthy 1977 John Bonham 197 pounds. I went down to 135. And so they tried to put a stent valve in, which would have made it possible for me to eat solid foods and for it to get into my stomach and the intenstines and all of that. And after three tries, they just couldn't do it. And so the doctor, when I came out of anesthesia from surgery, I said, 'So, are we good?' And he goes, 'No, we couldn't get past the blockage?' And I said, 'Am I gonna have to be wearing this tube and this bag for the rest of my life?' And he goes, 'Yeah, it's likely.' And I said, 'No, I don't accept that. I'm gonna stop treatment, 'cause this is a very poor quality of life.' And he says, 'Well, hold on.' And he left and had a meeting with his surgeons, and he came back and he goes, 'We're gonna try one more thing.' And it was literally a Hail Mary play. I had been at the hospital since nine in the morning that day going through all of this. It's now six o'clock in the evening. They roll me back into surgery. And by 9:15, when I came out of anesthesia, they put the stent in. So in due course, the tube was removed and I've been able to start eating food."
On how his treatment has affected his drumming:
Banali: "Here's the strange thing: There's so many side effect that come along with chemo, and the side effects get added on to you as you do more chemotherapy and the recovery time is a bit longer each time. The amazing thing is that right now I have no feeling in my fingertips and no feeling in my toes, and I sit behind the drums and everything works flawlessly. I don't know why. I don't question it for fear that if I question it… But it's been great. I did the Whisky show, which is the one that I did a week after I went public with the disease. And the timing was great, the energy was great, the power was great. No mistakes. All the correct things that Chuck [Wright] and Alex [Grossi] and Jizzy Pearl are used to hearing that the sub drummers I got over the summer just didn't get. Yeah, it was a great experience."
On his decision to go public with his cancer diagnosis:
Banali: "I was gonna play a couple of songs with Alex's side project HOOKERS & BLOW for the Rainbow parking lot gig. And this was in April. So I went to my strorage unit to get some supplies. And while I was there, all of a sudden my calf was in a ridiculous amount of pain — I couldn't figure it out — on my right foot. And I've gotta drive back home. So I barely made it the drive back hom — it was that painful. So what happened is my wife suggested I get in touch with [the hospital]. I couldn't get an appointment for a couple of days. And the next morning, I got up and I walked ten feet and I couldn't go any further and I was out of breath and I was really weak. So [my wife] Regina, and rightfully so, insisted that I go to emergency. So I went to emergency, and they an ultrasound of my right calf, and they did a scan of my upper. And what it showed was that I had a blood clot in my right calf, blood clot in my left lung, right lung and in the saddle in between the two lungs. The concern was if they dislodge, they only take two routes — one, to your brain; aneuryism — end of story. The other one, to your heart; heart attack — end of story. A byproduct of the scan caught a little bit of my liver, and they saw something that didn't look right. So now this is 3:30 in the morning, I'm still at the ER. And they wheel me back into the scan to scan all over. And about an hour later, at about 4:30 in the morning, the floor surgeon, or the floor doctor, in emergency comes in and unceremoniously says, 'You have stage four pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to your liver. And I really like your music.' And he signed off on the paperwork and walked out. That's how I found out.
"I had sent Regina home about 1:30 in the morning, 'cause she had been with me all day. So my first concern is how do I tell my wife? My second concern is how do I take care of QUIET RIOT? So I decided not to go public at that point. At that point, all I knew is that I had what they consider terminal cancer, and they gave me six months, which initially meant that the middle of October, I would probably have died. So I didn't wanna go public with just bad news. So my first consideration was, 'Okay, well, let's see where this goes, because I'm refusing to accept that I'm gonna be dying in six months' — even though I started making arrangements, just in the event, 'cause you don't know. But I refused to accept it. After I was diagnosed, I flew to Florida and did a festival date with QUIET RIOT, against my doctor's orders — because of flying and the altitude and the blood clots. And then in May, I did the M3 festival on May 5th, but after that, it just became impossible to travel. So now we go into the summer months, and QUIET RIOT had a full calendar. So I'm thinking to myself, 'Okay, I can't go, but how do I take care of my guys?' They all have expenses, they have families and everything. So I got in touch with my agent and we discussed having the band go out with substitute drummers. There were some promoters that were concerned that I had to talk off the ledge. We only lost two shows."
On whether he told the promoters the truth about why he was unable to play the shows:
Banali: "Initially, they were not aware of why, because no matter how much you say, 'This is private information,' it's the Internet — it's gonna be out there. But by and large, we were able to talk the rest of them off the ledge. There was one promoter that's a longtime friend for about 30 years — he's the one that put on the Heavy Montréal festival — and I was straight upfront with him… [Telling the promoters the truth] would have been playing — and rightfully so — the sympathy card, but the problem is that, let's say, promoter so-and-so gets off the phone and happens to say to his assistant, 'I can't believe this. I just found Frankie Banali has a really bad cancer' — boom! — on the Internet. So I wanted to avoid that. But by and large, there were no issues. But I'm ready to go back out on the road again with QUIET RIOT and I've made that very clear. And we already have a number of dates for QUIET RIOT for 2020 on the books."
On going public with his cancer battle:
Banali: "I think it's important for people to understand that, first of all, if they have any inclination whatsoever that cancer is in their family, they should really have themselves checked out. Because I had done physicals with my doctor religiously for 20, 30 years, and nothing ever showed up. And I did my last physical in February of this year, and no issues. And here comes April, and I've got stage four. It starts with stage one, then stage two, then stage three, stage four. There's no stage five. So [the cancer] existed, but a physical didn't catch it. So you really need to insist on having a CT scan… I don't believe that there is [proper screening for pancreatic cancer]. What I believe you can do is if you do a CT scan, if there is any abnormalities, especially in the pancreas, and if it has moved over to any of the other organs, it's gonna show up. I think probably doctors and hospitals are reluctant to order it, because it's expensive. But if you can afford it, or if you have the insurance, do it. It's worth doing it. Because if I could have caught it at stage one, or stage two, it wouldn't be as severe. Stage four is considered terminal."
On his current health and prognosis:
Banali: "My oncologist at a recent visit said that the tumor in the pancreas has shrunk some. So that was positive. There was no more fluid in my lungs. And that a lot of the problems with the liver, they didn't see any more, except that there's two areas there that they have some concern, which is why just this week, I did another CT scan, and I'm waiting for the results to come back on that. My regular doctor called me up, because she came in to see my after chemo one, when I was still in the hospital. And I looked like death warmed over at that point, because the first chemo was very brutal on my system. And she couldn't believe it. And she called me up last week, because she follows all my reports that come from the different technicians and my oncologist, and she says that the improvements that I've made are nothing short of a miracle. And I attest that, obviously, to the treatment that I'm getting, but also my diet, because, thank God, my wife Regina got me off, years ago, from being a complete and total Italian carnivore to being a vegetarian… My father was born in Sicily, and he loved to cook. So it was authentic and I learned from him. My mother was born in Spain and she loved to cook. And everything was authentic and I learned from her. At least four times a week, we'd have pasta at the house when I was a kid — with the meatballs and the sausage. And then the other three days of the week, it would be something Spanish, which was more carbs — rice and the beans and the fish and this and that and the other… What I'm saying is that I think it's helpful for my recovery that I'm not eating meat and chicken or pork that, for the most part, have all these different things added to the food that they're intaking. And I think the other thing is being able to assess your particular situation, and once I did that… I'm very aware that cancer, there's no cure for it. So I know the cancer will be the death of me. The question is when. And I think having a very positive attitude is very helpful. Yeah, it's okay to have your 'down' days, 'cause I have 'em. It's okay to be depressed about it, but it's not okay to stay there. It's more important to continue to live your life — not just for yourself, but for your family members and your friends, so they're not sitting around getting depressed because you're depressed or going on Facebook and having 'death watch 2019' or 'death watch 2020.' So it's very important to be positive — and realistic. I'm not a pessimistic or an optimistic person. I'm a realist — I deal with facts as they're presented to me."
QUIET RIOT's new studio album, "Hollywood Cowboys" was released on November 8 via Frontiers Music Srl.