Ex-KISS Drummer PETER CRISS: How I Discovered I Had Breast Cancer

Matthew Wilkening of Ultimate Classic Rock recently conducted an interview with original KISS drummer Peter Criss. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Ultimate Classic Rock: So, you’ve been cancer-free for more than three years now, right?

Peter: Four years, and my checkup comes up next week. I’m real excited about it because I feel great, except for the old pains that come from drumming for fifty years. I go to the gym every day, I walk three and a half miles, I work out five days a week, I play down in the studio. My wife had cancer, too. It’s an amazing story, if not for her cancer I wouldn’t be living. She’s feeling good too. So I just feel great and I’m looking forward to going in. They say it’s five years and you’re out of the water. Personally, my experience is you’re never out of the water. Every day I wake up and I get a pain, I think of the big “C” immediately. Because once it’s in your body, its evil, and I never thought I’d have that in my body. I even went into therapy over it all, because I just couldn’t believe it. You just have that fear, it never goes away. But I’m not worried. Every day above ground, my Dad used to say, is a good day.

Ultimate Classic Rock: Just so we can help people out, how exactly did you first notice any signs of trouble?

Peter: It was a nodule, like a lump in my nipple and I discovered it when I got back from the gym. Look out for bumps and pain, a kind of pain where you just know — this is a kind of pain I’ve never had before. I’ve had cysts and I remember them and I remember the doctor taking them out. This was different, it hurt like hell, it got bigger as I screwed around with it.

Ultimate Classic Rock: So you realized right away this was something very different?

Peter: I don’t know why, of all things, cause men just don’t think of breast cancer, we just don’t, but I swear, buddy I just knew that breast cancer had hit me for some reason. I think that was my angel speaking, and the red light went on, like, this is something more, Peter, you’ve got to check this out now. By the grace of God, my wife was going that day for her own cancer problems, and told her doctor about me. She checked me out, and said, “If my husband had that, I would send him over to (doctor) Alex Swistel immediately, like now.”

Ultimate Classic Rock: Then what happened?

Peter: So she calls and says, “I got a V.I.P. here” — sometimes it’s nice to be famous, it does open the door, and trust me, I’m a down-to-earth guy, I don’t look at things like that, but boy, it was a blessing. I got right in to the waiting room, and I started to get ill because I saw these beautiful women with no hair, wearing these turbans, and you could tell, the look of death was all over this room. There were other men, but they were all there with their wives. I just felt like, “What the hell am I doing here?’ but thank God. He said, yes, there’s something there and we should do a biopsy.

Ultimate Classic Rock: That must have been very scary.

Peter: Some time went by. At first they said it was negative, but then a few weeks pass and I was healing. Then I got a call on a Saturday morning, you know that “are you standing or sitting?”-type phone call? You just know, the bottom of your stomach falls out. He goes, “I got good news and really bad news. What do you want first?” Well, the bad, of course. “You’ve got breast cancer, Peter. You have to come back in now, and I want to remove your nipple and your breast muscle and take your lymph nodes out and make sure we get this son of a bitch immediately, because I can because you came in so soon.” It’s a miracle, and that’s how it can be treated.

Read the entire interview from Ultimate Classic Rock.

Photo courtesy of PeterCriss.net