Rocker Eddie Van Halen wasn’t yet ready to make a full disclosure. “I’m sorry for having waited so long to address this issue personally,” the Van Halen guitarist, 46, wrote in an April 26 message on his band’s Web site. “But cancer can be a very unique and private matter to deal with.”
Van Halen, the husband of actress Valerie Bertinelli, was finally answering—to a degree—speculation that began last year about his health. Declining to identify the type of cancer or his treatment, he said that specialists (including three head-and-neck surgeons) had given him hopeful news at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: “There’s a good chance I will be cancer-free in the near future.”
Bertinelli, 41, who with Van Halen has a 10-year-old son, Wolfgang, was more forthcoming in a May 1 appearance on CBS’s The Early Show. Eddie, she said, is recuperating from a mouth-related cancer that, she added, is not spreading. In another interview that day, she revealed that his doctors had removed a lesion a year ago—presumably a reference to his stay at Houston’s University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center last May.
A history of smoking and drinking would have put Van Halen, a recovering alcoholic, at greater risk for head and neck cancers. But, says Dr. Fairooz Kabbinavar, a UCLA oncologist (who was not treating the rocker), with early detection the chances of surviving these cancers “are really good.” Longtime friend and KISS bassist Gene Simmons, for one, is upbeat. “You don’t have to know Eddie,” he says, “to know he’s going to fight the fight of his life.”