LOU GRAMM Reflects On His Brain Tumor: The Doctors 'Told Me That I Should Get My Affairs In Order'

November 25, 2023

In a recent interview with Chicago's 97.1 FM The Drive, original FOREIGNER singer Lou Gramm reflected on being diagnosed with a type of brain tumor called a craniopharyngioma more than 25 years ago. Although the tumor was benign, the resulting surgery severely damaged Gramm's pituitary gland, leading to a massive weight gain and keeping him off the stage for a year.

Regarding how his tumor was diagnosed, Lou said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I just started having bad headaches and short-term memory loss. I [initially] couldn't get anybody to operate on it, because of where it was and how complicated it was that normal surgery would've been just a death sentence. So I went to about two or three doctors and had MRIs, and they all told me that I should get my affairs in order. I kind of went into shock. So I went back from New York City to Rochester to put my affairs in order."

Gramm said that he played a few gigs with FOREIGNER within a few weeks of his surgery.

"My surgeon told me because of the length and breadth of the operation, he didn't want me touring for at least a year to a year and a half," he said. "Now, when I in the hospital, FOREIGNER had to cancel a number of shows. So our manager rebooked the shows for two months after my surgery. The doctor wanted me not to perform for a year to a year and a half…. I wanted to do what the doctor wanted me to do, but FOREIGNER's manager said, 'Look, we had to cancel a number of shows because of your surgery and we have to make them up now or we're gonna be sued.' … But I did the shows. But listen to this: I couldn't remember any of the words. I had to have the first two or three words of each verse written out and taped to the floor in a semi-circle for all the songs that we did. I used to move around a lot when I was on stage [and after the surgery] I had to plant myself and keep looking over at the words to make sure I'd remember everything. I was on massive steroids and within six months, my weight doubled. I was 145 pounds at that time of my life, and I had been for 10, 12 years. Within a year, my weight doubled…. [When I got off the steroids, my weight] went back down. It didn't go back down all the way, but it's gone back down a lot. I had to throw every stitch of clothes that I had been wearing to that point. I just donated them to Salvation Army. I was wearing size 42 waist."

In his book "Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades In Rock 'N' Roll", Gramm wrote about his brain tumor: "It was a non-cancerous tumor, but it was the size of a large egg and it was in my frontal lobe and it had tentacles wrapped around my pituitary and optic nerve."

He revealed that he became aware of the tumor in his 40s after experiencing "incredible headaches — worse than any hangover I'd ever had," as well as issues with memory.

He added: "My long and short-term memory started to become spotty, and my eyes would cross once in a while.

"I went for an MRI and they said it was a large tumor, the size of an egg and that it had been there since birth, growing."

When he returned home after his 1997 diagnosis, Gramm happened to come across a television program about a hospital in Boston where they were operating on brain tumors.

Gramm recalled: "At the end of the segment, it gave his office number and I called it early the next morning and his secretary suggested I get my MRIs, get on a plane and come immediately."

Gramm was the voice on FOREIGNER's biggest hits, including "Feels Like The First Time" and "Cold As Ice" from the band's eponymous debut in 1977, and later songs like "Hot Blooded" and "I Want to Know What Love Is".

FOREIGNER replaced Gramm with Kelly Hansen in 2005. Guitarist Mick Jones, the only remaining original member of FOREIGNER, suffered from some health issues beginning in 2011, eventually resulting in heart surgery in 2012.

Gramm and Jones's June 2013 performance of "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Juke Box Hero" at the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in New York City marked the first time the pair performed together in a decade after Gramm left FOREIGNER for a second time.

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