DEF LEPPARD and LAST IN LINE guitarist Vivian Campbell says that his continuing battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, with which he was diagnosed in 2013, has made him "a better guitar player."
For the past three and a half years, Vivian has been part of a medical trial in Los Angeles, at City of Hope — one of the world's leading cancer research facilities — being treated with medication called pembrolizumab, which became FDA approved in early 2017.
Campbell, who receives pembrolizumab infusions roughly once a month, spoke about how his cancer battle during a recent interview with "Pat's Soundbytes Unplugged".
He said (hear audio below): "Obviously, it's very shocking when you get a cancer diagnosis at first. And I thought about the future, and I thought, 'Okay, assuming I survive this, will I be able to still continue and go on stage and play?' And it's interesting what you first think about.
"One of the first things I thought about was, 'My hair's gonna fall out from chemotherapy. I'm gonna need a wig. I can't go on stage [without my hair].' It's funny how we let these things define us.
"So I went and I paid a lot of money to a very, very good theatrical wigmaker here in Los Angeles. So, a few months later, my hair was falling out and I went to see the wig guy, and he made the wig. And I put it on, and it was so good, there was no way you could tell it wasn't my hair.
"But I started driving back home, and I was in a car for about 10 minutes or so. My wife was with me. And I pulled the car over, and she [said], 'What are you doing?' And I took the wig off and I never put it back on. At that moment, I just had a revelation. It felt so unnatural. And different people might have different responses, and certainly women I can understand that going out with no hair is a very challenging thing. But I found it very liberating and very cathartic.
"I went out on tour that summer with LEPPARD and I had no hair, I had no eyebrows," he continued. "All I had to offer onstage was my talents and my skills as a musician — my vocals and my guitar chops. That was it. Because there was nothing attractive about it.
"The thing that I've come to learn in recent years is that the only thing that I miss about having long hair onstage is that I realized it was hiding my eyes and [it was something I could] hide behind," Vivian added. "But in a way, having no hair and letting go of all of that and all of the ego and all of the vanity and anything that is associated with it, the appearance, is that it really was liberating; it really opened up my soul as a musician and it's made me a better guitar player as a result. I have never played guitar so well as I'm playing right now, and that has been the ultimate reward for me as a player. And that's why I continue to work so much, because I am enjoying it so much. I realize what a gift it is and what a joy it is. And in my 20s and in my 30s even, I stressed over all this minutia and all this bullshit that really doesn't matter too much, and it inhibited the way that I play. And now the floodgates have opened, and I'm just so, so enjoying my work — even more than ever. It is such a gift for me to not just play in one of the world's greatest bands, but in one of the world's greatest bands that you've never heard of — LAST IN LINE. And like I said, life is good. I work all the time, and I consider it a blessing. And hair or no hair… Now I've got a proper grown-up haircut. And yeah, there are times when I'm onstage when I wish I had more hair so I could behind it, but it's not what it's about. It's about the music."
Campbell, who has also performed, toured and worked with legendary artists including THIN LIZZY, DIO, WHITESNAKE, RIVERDOGS and Lou Gramm, went on to say that he feels well and his outlook is positive.
Vivian and his DEF LEPPARD bandmates were finally inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in March — 14 years after the British rockers first became eligible.