"I am looking forward to spending this time with my family," he shared. "But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can't wait."
Country music star Toby Keith is speaking candidly about his struggle with stomach cancer and his optimism for the future. The 61-year-old country artist informed his followers back in June 2022 that he was taking a break from music to undergo chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in the autumn of 2021.
Keith expressed hopes for the future in an upcoming interview with CMT Hot 20 Countdown, his first after disclosing his condition, reports PEOPLE. He said: "I need a little bit of time to just rest up and heal up." The singer-songwriter shared that although going through this medical battle is "pretty debilitating... as long as everything stays honky dory, then we'll look at something good in the future."
You heard it here first! @tobykeith has plans to get back on the road after battling cancer 👊 More details on his road to recovery this weekend only on #cmtHot20! pic.twitter.com/3p3Rs5a1XM— CMT Hot 20 Countdown (@cmtHot20) November 19, 2022
Keith stunned the crowd at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse in Lexington, Kentucky, earlier this month by performing songs like I Love This Bar and Lynyrd Skynard's Sweet Home Alabama. The Red Solo Cup singer initially kept playing concerts after receiving the diagnosis. He performed at a sold-out venue at the San Antonio Rodeo in February and later in May, at a Memorial Day weekend show at the Heroes Honor Festival in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Keith also attended The 2022 Toby Keith and Friends Golf Classic in May, which helped raise nearly $1.38 million for charitable causes. However, after six months of therapy, the celebrity decided he was ready for a break, as per Us Weekly. "I need time to breathe, recover and relax," Keith told his fans in a social media post, adding: "I am looking forward to spending time with my family. But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can't wait."
According to the American Cancer Society, stomach cancer—also known as gastric cancer—accounts for more than 26,000 new cases annually, or around 1.5 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States each year. It reportedly claimed the lives of about 11,090 people in 2022. Fred Rogers, widely known for his beloved role in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, passed away from stomach cancer in 2003 at the age of 74, according to New York Times.
Keith, an Oklahoma native, has long supported children with cancer and their families. After the daughter of one of his original bandmates died, he assisted in creating Ally's House, a charitable organization for pediatric patients in 2004. He established the Toby Keith Foundation two years later, which offers assistance and free lodging for children with cancer and their families in Oklahoma.
According to the foundation's website, it launched OK Kids Korral in 2014 as "a cost-free, convenient and comfortable home for pediatric cancer patients receiving treatment at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, Stephenson Cancer Center and other nearby facilities."
A statement on the website read: "There is no greater gift than keeping families strong and together during a difficult time. If we can alleviate stress on a family, encourage a brother or sister and comfort a sick child, then we will make a difference in the fight against cancer."
With over 40 top 10 hits and more than 30 No. 1 songs, Keith is a dominant figure in the country music industry. The musician was honored with the Merle Haggard Spirit Award by the Academy of Country Music last year for exemplifying the spirit of the 20-time A.C.M. award-winning Mr. Haggard. Keith also received the National Medal of Arts in January 2020.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images / Matt Winkelmeyer / Staff