Founder and Drummer of Poison
Official Head and Neck Cancer Alliance Spokesperson
2019 Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week
HPV-attributed Oropharyngeal Cancer Survivor
Founder and drummer for the rock band Poison, Rikki Rockett has experienced a lifetime of successes as a musician, a businessman, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As a motor sports enthusiast, he is now a personality host for the sport on the YouTube Network.
Poison remains one of the music industry’s top acts, with multi-platinum album sales and sold out tours since first bursting onto the music scene in the mid-1980s. They have sold over 40 million records and DVDs worldwide, have charted twelve Top 10 hits, and are set to perform some of their greatest hits including “Nothin’ But A Good Time,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Unskinny Bop” and “Something To Believe In.” Since their debut in 1986, they have released seven studio albums, four live albums, five compilation albums, and have issued 28 singles to radio. At the age of 54, however, Rikki would be faced with a life-altering experience: He was diagnosed with HPV-attributed throat cancer. His life of an abundance of well-earned roses would present itself with a thorn.
What started as a persistent sore throat turned quickly into a swollen lymph node, which began to grow. In a matter of nine weeks, he underwent three lymph node biopsies. The initial biopsies showed no evidence of disease and/or were inconclusive. Knowing something was not right, Rikki pressed for a third biopsy and received the news in September 2015 that he had HPV-attributed throat cancer.
Rikki underwent 37 radiation treatments, but the cancer persisted. His doctors next recommended the removal of his tongue and additional treatments. Stunned by the recommendation, he immediately began to search for other treatment options.
He met with Ezra Cohen, M.D. of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and HNCA Board Member, who highly recommended Rikki consider immunotherapy.
Like Poison’s lyric, “Every night has its dawn,” Rikki began to respond immediately to the initial treatments, and within two months, his cancer was essentially 90% gone. By the 14th week of treatment, his scan indicated that the cancer was completely gone.
Since his experience, Rikki has become a big advocate for immunotherapy. While he understands his experience was unprecedented in many ways, he hopes that many more patients will undergo immunotherapy first and not have to face long months of chemotherapy and radiation and all their side effects.
His message to others who believe they may have an issue is to go directly to an ENT Specialist.
He still experiences some reflux, occasional difficulty swallowing, and salivary gland issues, but to counter the side effects, he always has a water bottle on hand.
These days, he feels blessed to spend a great deal of quality time with his two children, as well as his fiancée, who helped him through both treatments, and to pursue his life passions of music and motorsports.
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