MUSIC

Def Leppard Guitarist Vivian Campbell Talks Touring With Cancer (INTERVIEW)

08/12/2013 01:07 EDT | Updated 08/12/2013 02:12 EDT
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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 24: Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard performs on stage at Poble Espanyol on June 24, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images)

Def Leppard's Vivian Campbell surprised the rock world earlier this summer when he revealed he was being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The even more shocking news was that the axeman was determined not to let his chemo treatments stop him from joining the band on their summer tour.

While on the road, Campbell opened up about the way his treatments forced him to hop between continents in between Def Leppard gigs.

"The band has been very accommodating," he says. "We've been able to [make it] work because there have been enough gaps in the schedule. Chemo treatment number six I did on the 18th of June, and then the next day I flew to France to join the band. And then I [flew] back to LA on the 7th of July for my seventh treatment, and I [left] for Canada the day after that."

After each treatment is over, Campbell says he "won't be feeling well for a day or two, but for the most part it's been something I've been able to handle."

However, the Def Leppard guitarist, who has also played with Dio and Whitesnake, adds that continuing to rock in the face of cancer wasn't necessarily always his plan.

"Hell, I didn't want to miss it. I don't feel like laying at home in bed! But I didn't know at first. You never know how chemo is going to affect you — it affects people in different ways, depending on your cancer, what stage it's at, and what kind of treatment they give you. I told the guys in the band that I'd go as far as four chemo treatments and then I'd make a decision. By [then], I was pretty confident I was going to be able to do this."

Interview continues after slideshow

Celebrity Survivors

Once Campbell made up his mind, Def Leppard set out on a tour that saw them crisscross Europe and play a few select dates in North America. The Irish rocker says he's been inspired by the challenges his own bandmates have conquered over the years.

"This band has always been a band of survivors. We have the one-armed drummer! You go on stage with Rick Allen every night, and you're reminded of [how to] overcome adversity. I've been with the band for 21 years — I replaced the original guitar player, Steve Clark, after he died. Some people say Def Leppard are an unlucky band, but one thing you can say about Def Leppard is we're a resilient bunch."

Campbell says that so far, the biggest change he’s had to make while dealing with cancer has been a matter of aesthetics.

"My hair!" he laughs. "I've had long hair since 11 years of age, that was when I started growing it. [Maintaining it] was many hours out of my day. I've never felt good about cutting my hair, but this has kind of forced me to do it. Right now I've got a military-style buzz cut, and with each chemo treatment it's falling out more and more. But I'm 50 years of age — a haircut was long overdue anyway."

This month, Campbell also hit the road with Dio's reunited lineup, known as Last In Line, with dates in California and the UK.

"I'm feeling splendidly well," he says. "I feel very, very fortunate that my body has been able to handle the chemo and I’m still able to go about my normal life, give or take a couple days around the chemo treatments."

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