In a new interview with Radioactive MikeZ, host of the 96.7 KCAL-FM program "Wired In The Empire", EXODUS's Tom Hunting opened up about the second type of cancer his doctors found while they were preparing to perform a surgery on him during his battle with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the stomach.
The 57-year-old, who underwent a successful total gastrectomy in July 2021, said about how he was first diagnosed with cancer (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The first thing that happened [is] I was losing weight and I didn't have hunger for food. It's hard to explain what that would feel like. In the past, I've had those kind of flareups and it was always due to anxiety or something. But this felt different. And it was lingering. I was going to see doctors. And they did a bunch of scans. They didn't see anything in the scans. All the blood work was good. And then they sent a camera inside there.
"I urge anybody who's having a gut problem, if [the problems] persist, they're gonna do a CT scan first. Tell them you want an endoscopy. That's the best test out there. It probably saved my ass, looking back."
Tom continued: "I was taking antacid stuff, like Pepcid and whatever. And I probably took that Zantac drug that they're talking about causing cancer. I brought that up to my doctors too. Zantac has a lot of the same stuff that your Pepcids and your other ones have in it too. And at the end of the day, you shouldn't have to take that shit for, like, a year. So, that was there. It was an esophageal type of cancer that showed up in what is called the cardinal region of my stomach; it was forming in there and causing me not to eat. I couldn't burp. That was another one. I had this tumor inside me, and I couldn't burp. And as soon as they gave me my first dose of chemo, before the surgery, something loosened up in there and I was able to burp. It felt so good. [Laughs]"
According to Hunting, he "ended up having two different kinds of cancer. They found a tumor inside my stomach," he said. "So then they do what they call a laparoscopic surgery, which they send two things inside of you. They make two cuts and they send a camera inside of you to physically explore the region and the outside region. And mine was in a weird spot; mine was in my stomach. So, okay, they wanted to check out the outside of the stomach lining — some crazy testing that they've gotta do. But it's all part of the process to make you a candidate for the surgery. When they did the laparoscopic [procedure] with me, it's two incisions, it's a camera that goes in and another tool that moves your organs out of the way for this camera to go do its job. So they found nodules of mesothelioma on my abdomen wall."
When asked if the doctors said there was anything in particular that caused his cancer, such as eating habits, lifestyle, living or working environments, genetics, or something else, Hunting replied: "I asked the specialist, I was, like, 'Did I do something to [cause] this? Did I do a brake job on my car and sniffed asbestos or some shit?' And he said it could have been anything. That cancer could have been just environmental, and it just happened.
"It's funny, 'cause had I not had the original cancer, I never would have needed a laparoscopic procedure to begin with, and they never would have found the mesothelioma," Tom explained. "But for a minute, when they were doing that test, what they thought they were looking at was the same type of cancer that they saw in my stomach. So there was a minute there where I was, like, stage four plus plus plus, like, 'Give him chemo. Keep him comfortable.' I wouldn't have been a candidate to even get any kind of surgery. So they found out it was a different type of cancer that was in my stomach. That makes you a candidate to get the surgery and the treatment after to try to knock out any nodules of mesothelioma that they would find in there."
Regarding his post-surgery recovery, Hunting said: "They took out 42 lymph nodes and my stomach and all this crazy surgery — like two surgeries in one surgery — and they didn't find one speck of cancer in one of the lymph nodes, which is, like, 'Holy shit.' If you're going through it, that's the fucking jackpot. The best three words you can hear are 'nothing to see'.
"Fortunately, it's been… After the surgery, I got six months, or five and a half months of immunotherapy, 'cause they found out that the chemo didn't affect the cancer like they wanted it to, so they did the surgery. It trains your immune system to go out and kill rogue cells that it finds. It's pretty high-tech shit. And I'm a beneficiary of that too."
Tom added: "Science is great. And I had a lot of good people to talk to along the way to help me out. And that's kind of where I'm at now. I wanna be that ear for somebody who's recently getting told that news.
"I'm thankful. And I'm definitely one of the lucky ones. Science is killer, and what they're able to do for people in my situation and others nowadays is leaps and bounds from what they could do even five years ago."
In December 2021, Hunting told the "Put Up Your Dukes" podcast that he wants to use his experience as a cancer survivor to interact with others who may be going through a similar situation.
"I'm not qualified now, but I think in a couple of more months, they deem me qualified to talk to other people about this disease, and I'm gonna do it," he said. "'Cause I want people to know about it and I want people to get checked. Just going public with it — I don't do social media, but what I read on the EXODUS [sites] was, like, 'Hey, I'm having gut problems too,' and, 'I'm gonna go get checked out now.' I hope people get the answers they're looking for."
"I'm not saying those drugs that they give you for your gut are bad. They get you by. But if you're having what you think is a gut problem, tell 'em you wanna get scoped. 'Cause some of those scans and some of those tests, they won't pick up what's going on inside there.
"Since I'm on this journey, dude, they're fucking scanning me constantly," Tom added. "'Cause they wanna see how I'm reacting to what they're doing too. So it's all part of the science and the evolution of the science. If they can help me live — and I love my life — and I can help them develop the science to help the next batch of people who you know are gonna get this shit, that's a win-win."
Hunting rejoined his EXODUS bandmates on stage in October 2021 at the Aftershock festival in Sacramento, California.
EXODUS tapped John Tempesta to play drums for the band at Psycho Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada in August 2021 and at Full Terror Assault in Cave In Rock, Illinois in September 2021 while Hunting was recovering from surgery. Tempesta was a member of EXODUS from 1989 until 1993 and played on the band's albums "Impact Is Imminent" (1990) and "Force Of Habit" (1992).
A GoFundMe campaign to help Hunting with medical expenses had previously raised more than $114,000 — including $5,000 from Tom's former EXODUS bandmate, current METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett, and $1,500 from FOZZY singer and wrestling superstar Chris Jericho.
EXODUS released its new album, "Persona Non Grata", in November 2021 via Nuclear Blast Records. The LP was recorded at a studio in Lake Almanor, California and was engineered by Steve Lagudi and EXODUS. It was produced by EXODUS and was mixed by Andy Sneap. For the third time in the band's history, they returned to Swedish artist Pär Olofsson to create the album artwork.
"Persona Non Grata" is the follow-up to 2014's "Blood In Blood Out", which was the San Francisco Bay Area thrashers' first release since the departure of EXODUS's singer of nine years, Rob Dukes, and the return of Souza, who previously fronted EXODUS from 1986 to 1993 and from 2002 to 2004.
Image credit: Amoeba