Stan Walker has revealed that he is battling cancer.
After intense public scrutiny over the past few months following his dramatic weight loss and rumours of his sickness, the singer finally set the record straight in his documentary Stan which screened on Three tonight.
He reveals that he went in for a routine checkup in late 2017 and a week later he found out he had cancer. The disease was confined to a single layer of his stomach, but the drastic measure to remove his stomach was necessary to stop it progressing.
Stan was positive after the diagnosis, and adamant he was "going to beat this."
The cancer diagnosis wasn't a shock to Stan; he went in for the checkup because of his family history. He has a rare cancer causing gene that has affected over 25 members of his family.
"This whole hill, we've all been struck by this ugly curse, this ugly gene. I've watched everyone die," Stan said as he returned to his family marae.
He is a 5th generation member of the family who not only has the gene, but has developed cancer.
Stan is the only member of his immediate family, apart from his mum April, who have the gene. The mutant gene, CHH1, can manifest itself in stomach or breast cancer. It was lobular breast cancer that his mum developed.
The odds of developing cancer if you have the gene are extremely high at 80%.
Stan was lucky to catch it at its earliest point, and had the best chance of survival. He had his stomach removed in Australia in September 2017. 13 cancer lesions were found after the operation.
Stan's weight loss after the surgery was dramatic and it was evident in images before and after the surgery. It was painful and harder than he thought. "I just have to thank God every day that I'm alive," he said after the operation, clearly in a lot of pain.
"I wouldn't wish this on anybody."
At the time Stan was undergoing treatment, his mum was still recovering from breast cancer. Stan dropped everything, including his current tour, to help his mum through her recovery when she was diagnosed in September 2016.
But his own surgery didn't go completely smoothly. Stan developed a chest infection two weeks after the operation which led to one of his lungs collapsing.
He suffered "setback after setback" during his ordeal and said at times he "felt like giving up."
All was looking up and within days of each other, both mother and son found out they were cancer free. But Stan's difficulties didn't end there. He wasn't feeling well and was having trouble swallowing. During a routine checkup it was discovered that his esophagus was narrowing and he ended up back in hospital.
"No one prepared me enough for all these setbacks," he lamented from his hospital bed. "I had so much hope yesterday. Today is a different day. I don't have the hope I did yesterday...I feel defeated."
The worry for Stan and his mother was that his grandfather died after surgery to remove his stomach after his esophagus couldn't be properly attached to his bowel.
Stan suffered potentially fatal complications during the surgery to stretch his esophagus. But he pulled through and returned home to New Zealand to finish recovering and prepare for his comeback concert.
Only 14 weeks after his surgery he made his return to the stage in Rarotonga. After initially fearing his voice might never be the same again, his concert was a success, despite having to change some of his melodies because he couldn't hit a lot of the notes he used to.
"Performing on that stage, going on with all my complications, not being able to sing, get through a song, a whole performance, and then singing the way that I sung, my voice just came out...and I felt alive, just being on stage, for the first time in a long time. I was back back, being me, doing what I do."
But only days after the concert Stan found himself in hospital yet again with more complications. In January 2018 he was admitted for gallstones after losing more weight. He has to undergo another operation, his third in a matter of months.
But he continues to recover. And what he has taken out of the whole ordeal is a different, more holistic approach to life; going back to the old Maori way of living, finding inspiration in how they looked after their bodies and their health. That's the message he wants to get out to his people, "to go back to our roots."
"I'm not keen on dying," he says. "I want to live. And I want to have a good life. I want to have kids. I want to raise my kids, I want to see my mokos," (grandchildren).
We wish you all the luck in the world, Stan.
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