Tim Commerford Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer Before Rage Tour
When Rage Against the Machine returned to the road this summer, they did so with bassist Tim Commerford dealing with some health issues that were not publicly disclosed. But Commerford recently revealed to Spin that he’s been dealing with prostate cancer and that he learned about the diagnosis and had treatment for it before this past summer’s tour took place.
“I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious shit,” the bassist told Spin. “Right before I was about to go on tour with Rage, I had my prostate removed, and I have prostate cancer.” Though seemingly appearing healthy onstage, the musician chose to open up about his current health battle. “I’ve been someone that’s taken a lot of pride in being in shape and taking care of myself,” he says. “But it’s something where either you’re either lucky or not.”
When asked how he found out, the bassist revealed, “I went to get life insurance but my PSA numbers were up. I couldn’t get it. They wouldn’t insure me. At first, the number was very low — like one-point-something. I watched it over the course of a year and a half, and it kept elevating further. Eventually, they did a biopsy and found out I had cancer, so they took my prostate out.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, with the exception of skin cancer. According to Cancer.net, This year, an estimated 268,490 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Worldwide, an estimated 1,414,259 people were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020. It is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world.
Around 60 percent of cases are diagnosed in people age 65 or older. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 66 years. The disease is rarely identified in those younger than 40. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States.
The bassist admits upon seeing the initial warning signs that he wished he’d been more vigilant in asking questions. “I had been thinking, well, because they’re watching it and let it get to this point, maybe it’s not that big of a deal. I blame myself. I should have said, ‘my numbers are elevated and what does that really mean?’ I should have taken it more seriously. I should have looked into alternate therapy instead of getting sucked into the most disgusting, capitalistic machine on the face of the planet: the medical establishment.”
Sharing his reaction, he offered, “I’m just trying to grab ahold of the reins. It’s gonna be a long journey, I hope. My dad died in his early 70s from cancer and my mom died from cancer in her 40s. Split the difference to 65 and I’ve got 10 years. I’m trying to get to the 100-song mark — I have some goals now. Songwriting has become a catharsis for me.”
Commerford reveals that two months before the tour happened, he had his prostate surgery. Initially doctors told him that he wasn’t going to be ready to play. He also revealed his condition to his bandmates as well. As for his decision to now speak publicly about his condition, the bassist revealed that he has a hard time speaking about it, but decided to do so after seeing Duran Duran’s recent Rock Hall induction with Andy Taylor unable to attend while dealing with Stage 4 prostate cancer. “There are a lot of people who have it. There are a lot of people who are like, ‘Where do you go?’ You can’t talk to a therapist. You can only really talk to someone who’s going through it,” said the bassist.
As for his current state, Commerford shares, “I just got my six-month test, and it came back at zero. I was like, ‘Fuck yeah!’ That’s the best I can feel for the rest of my life. Every day I get closer to that test is like, ‘Fuck man, is this going to be the time when the number is going to go up and I’m going to the next thing, whatever that is?’ I already went through some pain and shit. And I’m continuing to go through like, some crazy shit.”
The Rage bassist revealed that music has been a source of comfort through this journey. “The glass is half-full. That’s the beauty of songwriting and bass playing. When my mom was sick, that’s when I learned how to play bass. When I was on stage with Rage, there were times that I wasn’t thinking about cancer for moments. When I play in 7D7D with Mathias in the studio, I don’t care what we’re doing. I go into a trance, and I just completely forget about it. And it’s so beautiful,” says the bassist. “When I wake up in the morning, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s a new day. Dope!’ Then it’s like, ‘Oh fuck, I have cancer’ and you can’t stop it. It puts a dark cloud on the day. When I go jam with Mathias, I just tune out and it feels so good. Music has always been there in the toughest of times.”
Commerford concludes, “It’s been hard for me to imagine cancer and getting anything good out of it. But there’s this little light at the end of the tunnel that I’m seeing right now where I feel like I can get some really solid goodness from it in other areas. I hope there’s one person who reads this and is like, ‘Fuck, I need to get checked out’ when they find out about it. It’s going to be OK because they found out about it, and for me, that’s good enough.”
Rage Against the Machine returned to the road this summer, but ran into some issues when frontman Zack de la Rocha tore his achilles tendon while performing onstage. The band continued their tour with the singer sitting on a stage case during the remainder of the run, but then called off all remaining tour dates after the tour leg was complete.