Ronnie James Dio's former wife and longtime manager Wendy Dio spoke to V13 about the final months of the legendary singer's life. Ronnie died of stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, in May 2010. The disease often does not cause symptoms until its later stages. Usually, by the time stomach cancer is diagnosed, the prognosis is poor.
"We didn't think he was gona pass away; we never thought he was gonna pass away," Wendy said. "I mean, all the times he was having the treatment. In the end, we'd go every two weeks and he'd have his chemo for six hours, and we'd come back and we'd skip down the hallways saying, 'We're killing the dragon. We're here to kill the dragon.' We called the cancer the dragon.
"Three weeks before he passed away, he was accepting an award from [Revolver] Golden Gods, and we just didn't think — we always thought he was gonna make it; he always thought he was gonna make it. And it's just such a horrible, horrible disease that just takes everybody's life; it doesn't care where they come from."
Wendy previously discussed Ronnie's cancer battle in a 2018 interview with the "Red Light District Show". Speaking about her decision to start the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, which was established after his death as a privately funded 501(c)(3) charity organization dedicated to cancer prevention, research and education, she said: "We try to tell people, especially with men — 'cause women are pretty good about getting checked. So we try to teach that early detection saves lives, and we do try to teach everyone that and say that in all of our interviews and all of our conferences and things that early detection saves lives. Please go and get tested. We're working right now with UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles], with Dr. Wong there, who's developing a saliva test. So instead of men going to get the normal test, which is why they don't like to go, if you know what I mean — they don't like the finger… This will be a very easy swab in the mouth and then sent away and it will come back and let us know whether you have either prostate cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer or stomach cancer, or none of the above. So it's a very good test. That way, people can get tested and get it at a very early stage. And if it's caught early, then the chances of survival and far, far greater."
The Dio Cancer Fund has raised in excess of $2 million to date through its various annual events and direct support from the vast community of Dio fans worldwide. It is their mission to help eradicate this disease through education and via Wendy's mantra: early detection saves lives.
"With pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer, a lot of times you don't know what's wrong with you until it's too late," Wendy said. "Ronnie had a lot of indigestion [a persistent or recurrent pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen], and actually went to a specialist about seven years before he passed with indigestion, and they just tested his heart and tested all these other things. But had I known what I know now, I would have insisted he had a colonostomy and an ultrasound. But at that time, we didn't know anything about cancer, so we didn't do it. And then he continued to take a lot of [over-the-counter antacid] Tums — he ate Tums all the time because of his stomach indigestion, which is what he thought he had."
Ronnie's autobiography, titled "Rainbow In The Dark: The Autobiography", was released on July 27 via Permuted Press. It was written with longtime friend of 30 years and esteemed music writer Mick Wall, who took up the mantle after Ronnie's passing.