N E W Y O R K, Feb. 7 -- For nearly a year, Rod Stewart thought he might have lost the trademark raspy voice that made songs like “D’ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Tonight’s the Night” infectious rock ’n’ roll classics.
The 56-year-old British rocker was unable to sing for nine months after having a lump removed from his thyroid gland in Los Angeles last April. The lump — spotted during a routine CAT scan — was benign, but some of the material around it was cancerous.
“They literally, you know, cut you right through the throat,” Stewart told Good Morning America in the first of a three-part interview with Diane Sawyer that is airing this week.
The doctors had warned him that it would be six months until his voice recovered, but Stewart actually endured a nine-month stretch when he was not sure if he would be able to sing again.
“And it just took a bit of time ... before the voice got back, and as you can hear, it's not properly back yet, but it will. Just needs to be re-trained,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he was completely floored when he was told he had cancer. He had been the picture of good health and did not see any symptoms. An avid soccer player, who once dabbled as a professional, he takes good care of himself, he said.
"I always thought I was so fit," Stewart said. "You know, I play soccer and I work out every day. I mean, the big "C" was the furthest thing from my mind ... yeah, it was a terrible shock. I mean, I just went into total silence for a few days. Early detection. Men have got to get to the doctors and get, you know, get it detected."
The type of cancer that he had is slow-growing, and found mostly in women, and it did not require any additional treatment after the surgery. But perhaps even more difficult for a singer was the inability to sing. He was told that his voice would return in six months. So he waited. And waited.
"So I thought, after six months, I started singing and nothing happened," Stewart said. "Then eight months and nine months. And it's only just recently started coming back."