Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 15, 2011

A Death by Skin Cancer? The Bob Marley Story

Dr Cleland Gooding MD., F.A.A.D., a physician with a specialty in Skin Diseases employed by the Bahamas Government, has penned this intriguing article about Bob Marley’s failed treatment for skin cancer, which eventually progressed to the brain cancer responsible for his death at 36. Here are excerpts, with a link to the original article below.

Bob Marley the charismatic beloved Jamaican singer, who introduced reggae infused with Rastafarian themes died from a cancerous brain Tumor on May 11, 1981 in Miami. Florida. He was only 36 years old.

It’s been 30 years since his death; and there have many rumours and speculation about the cause of death. Did he really die from a brain tumor? Or other nefarious causes? Like the CIA? Poison in his boots etc? Bob Marley’s medical records were never made public. However from several sources I managed to piece together the story of his illness and death from Metastatic Skin Cancer (Melanoma). This account I hope is fair, balanced and enlightening.

Bob Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music and is credited with spreading Jamaican and the Rastafarian movement worldwide.

. . .

When was the first indication that something was amiss with Bob Marley’s health? According to sources this first happened in the summer of 1977. He injured his right great toe during a Soccer game on tour in Paris, France. The toe nail became partially detached and painful. He admitted to his manager that the toe had been injured before and a wound was “on and off” for years! If that was true, could a malignant melanoma (skin cancer) been growing there earlier? A wound or sore that refuses to heal is a classic sign of skin cancer.

The hotel doctor was consulted and the right great toe nail was removed and the toe bandaged. No biopsy was done. The European tour continued and the Right great toe appeared to heal. However, later that summer he hurt the toe again playing soccer. It was painful and a new wound opened up and refused to heal. As Bob Marley went to London for a meeting, late that summer (1977), his manager advised him to see a doctor. According to reports the appearance of his toe shocked the Doctor. It was said to be “eating away”. A skin biopsy was done (removal of skin tissue for examination under the microscope).

The shocking diagnosis of a malignant melanoma (Skin Cancer) was given to Bob Marley. He was advised that treatment would be to amputate the toe, to stop the cancer from spreading.

In Miami still in the summer 1977, the British diagnosis of malignant melanoma was confirmed to Bob Marley again. He was advised to get the toe amputated and possibly the right foot. Again he refused.

Why didn’t Bob Marley have the amputation? He cited religious beliefs about “not cutting the flesh”. However he allowed the famous orthopedic surgeon Dr William Bacon to do a surgical excision to “cut away” cancerous tissue on the toe and do a skin graft at Cedar’s of Lebanon Hospital (now University of Miami Hospital). He remained in Hospital one week and spent about three months recuperating in Miami. The procedure was deemed “a success”. But sadly it was not. The cancer in it virulent form began to spread through his body (metastasized).

This brings the question, why would Bob Marley get skin cancer on his toe? First we must remember that Bob was diagnosed with an Acral Melanoma. This type accounts for 70 per cent of melanoma in darkly pigmented individual or Asians. It typically occurs on non-sun exposed areas as the palm, the sole and mucosa and under the nails. It is characterised by a dark mole or spot that can turn cancerous.

This can happen by repeated trauma to the area or for no reason at all. Studies have shown that darker skin people are more likely to present with advanced disease stage III -IV than whites who typically appear with stage I. This is exactly what happened in Mr Marley’s case. He presented with a skin cancer stage 3-4 on his toe.

He also was fair-skinned of a white father. Being fair-skinned is a risk factor for skin cancer. Melanoma can take years to spread. Most likely he had a pigmented dark mole under his right great toe nail, the continued playing of soccer traumatized the dark mole, which turned cancerous then into a sore. When his cancer was discovered (summer of 1977) the recommendation to amputate his toe would most certainly have saved his life. The surgical excision done and the skin graft (July 1977) was ineffective or simply too late.

As the years went by, his health was deteriorating. He continued to be immersed in his music. In 1976 there was an attempt on his life in Jamaica, Mr Marley narrowly escaped death, He, his wife and manager Don Taylor were shot.

Among the Doctors attending, them was a prominent Bahamian doctor Dr Philip Thompson who was attending U.W.I. at the time.

In 1979, Bob Marley visited Nassau, The trip was opposed by some religious ministers.

It does not appear that he followed up on his doctor’s visits.

All appeared well until 1980. He released his last album “Uprising” and the band, the Wailers were planning an American tour with Stevie Wonder for the winter of 1980. However by the summer of 1980 the cancer was metastasizing through his body. According to sources, he did not feel well and saw a doctor who give him clearance to go on tour!

The tour started in Boston followed by New York in September 1980. During the show in New York in Madison Square Gardens Bob looked sick and almost fainted. The very next morning September 21 while jogging through Central Park Bob Marley collapsed and was brought to a hospital. Tests showed a brain tumor, which most likely had spread from the primary cancer on his right great toe. The cancer was now spreading to his vital organs.

How does a malignant melanoma spread? It is generally agreed that melanoma cells spread via the lymphatic, the blood stream or both. Then it can affect the liver, the lungs, the brain or the bones.

A neurologist gave him one month to live. Rita Marley is said to have wanted the remaining tour cancelled, but Bob wanted to continue. He played his last show in Pittsburgh, but was too ill to continue and the tour was finally cancelled. That show proved to be his last.

Convinced at last to seek medical treatment, Bob was admitted to Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan NY. This center is one of the world’s leading cancer treatment center. Tests then revealed the malignant melanoma cancer had spread to his lungs and liver. He received a few radiation treatments, but checked out when some New York papers let on that he was seriously ill. He went to Miami, then back to Sloan-Kettering, then Jamaica. Why the back and forth? Some said he hadn’t much faith in “Western Medicine”.

He was advised to seek further help in Germany. Bob and his entourage then travelled to Germany to the Bavarian Clinic of Dr Josef Issels. He was a specialist in Holistics, or Toxic cancer

treatment. Why leave a world renowned cancer treatment center like Sloan-Kettering to go to a holistic center? That is a mystery to me.

While in Germany Bob Marley celebrated his 36th, and final birthday. While at the center in Germany Bob received such treatments as exercise, ozone injections, vitamins and trace elements. However, as the months went by, he realised that these treatments were not working and his cancer was terminal.

TREATMENT

What is the treatment for Advanced Malignant Melanoma ?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology 2010 “No effective therapy exists at this time for metastatic disease to the internal organs”. Until effective therapy is developed the focus must remain on early detection and removal of the primary tumor or mole.

As his metastatic disease progressed, Bob Marley decided to die at home in Jamaica. The group chartered a flight for the trip home. While flying home to Jamaica his vital functions worsened, and the plane was directed to Florida. He was immediately admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital and died May 11, 1981. His wife and mother were by his side. He was said to weigh a shocking 82lbs on the day he died.

He received a state funeral in Jamaica May 21 1981, which combined Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafarian tradition. He was buried with his guitar, a soccer ball, a marijuana bud, a ring and a Bible.

. . .

Some questions still remain about the Bob Marley story.

Why was he given clearance to go “on tour” with an advance malignant melanoma? Did the Doctor really know his condition? Were any medical tests done? Blood, x-rays etc? Was he was a medical specialist?

Also how did he manage to survive so long with an advanced cancer? Was it his marijuana use? This is highly unlikely. According to studies it is difficult to predict outcomes for individual patients with melanoma. We know he was a man of incredible stamina and drive.

Would the FDA approved drug Interferon have helped him? This is the only one approved for Adjuvant treatment of malignant melanoma. Definitely, the amputation would have prolonged his life.

The article appeared originally at http://www.tribune242.com/Print/04122011_Bob-Marley_features_pg9


Responses

  1. Listen up Doc and others this is nonesense. Bob Marley did not die from skin cancer. I will not tell you what I know here, but what you are saying is not true. He did not die from any form of skin cancer i.e Malignant melanoma, that progressed from his foot and metastasised to his brain.I Ras Cardo will tell you that this form of speculative story has been floating around for years and I will challenge anyone of you prominent physicians on it. I repeat, Bob did not die from malignant melanoma which sread from his toe to his lymphatic system then to his brain and the rest of his body. The toe problem was a concomitant cause, but was not the source, and melanoma had nothing to do with it. I will ask all of you- What was the source and the one dominant and causative factor which triggered these events, and hence your speculations? I am sure you do not have the answer to that. Ras cardo reggae from trench town.

    • I have melanoma and have talked with his wife and sons.. he did die of melanoma !!!!

  2. Freakin moron.. that IS how melanoma progesses. You want to discredit the story without any credibilty or even a factual statement that would possible give you credibility. Skin cancers kill and unfourtanetly it’s black people because no one beleives that it can happen to them, While rare for black people to get skin cancer they are most likely to die from it.

  3. [...] courtesy Repeating Islands Cats: Biography, Feature, South Africa Tags: Biography, Bob Marley, English, Feature, Ja No Man, [...]

  4. Thanks for the comprehensive story on Bob Marley and his battle with cancer. Cancer is a disease that hits all nationalities and especially poor blacks. Not to say that Bob Marley was poor, but he was part of masses of black people that everyday wanted to be free from colonialism or what Peter Tosh labeled as “the shitstem”. Bob’s reluctancy to trust western medicine should be taken seriously. In the mid 1970’s, advanced knowledge of the understanding of that type of skin cancer was progressing, but not enough to probably agree with amputation. Bob Marley after finding out what type of cancer he had, wanted to to seek alternative teatments and evaluations. When it comes to a foot being cut off, that is serious. Early preventitive methods for the type of cancer back then was limited or not even present, almost like today.
    In conclusion, little progress been accomplished as it relates to cancer prevention and research. The most important thing is that poor oppressed black people still do not control any aspect of the healthcare industry to make themselves well, and the current industry that we do not control has a profit market making value in the billions! Free Healthcare and Prevention For All!

  5. Surviving an attempt on his life by a well-armed death squad at his Hope Road home in Jamaica, Bob Marley was later given a ‘gift’ of a new pair of boots by Carl Colby, son of the late CIA director William Colby. When the unsuspecting Marley put them on, something pricked his foot. He then reached into one of the boots and pulled out a piece of copper wire. Many of his closest friends suspected that the wire contained some carcinogenic and radioactive substance, since Marley contracted cancer shortly thereafter. When Bob Marley was diagnosed with cancer, he was referred to Dr. Carl “Pee Wee” Fraser. Fraser advised Marley to seek treatment from a Dr. Josef Issels in Bavaria. Issels was an officer in the SS, a colleague of Joseph Mengele and had served a jail term for manslaughter. Mengele survived the war and enjoyed the protection and employment of the CIA.
    They cut Bob’s dreadlocks off and he was getting all of this crazy, crazy (experimental) medical treatment in Switzerland. Bob himself sometimes felt the injections he was given were poison, and in bad moments thought they were trying to kill him. When Bob was too ill to continue treatment Dr Jossef Issels sent him home to die. Bob Marley was murdered.

    • yes. thank you for pointing out certain truths.

      Bob Marley caused a worldwide slave rebellion. Babylon tried many times to silence this prophet.

      … but, “yuh cyan’t kill God.”

      So Bob Seh. Happy Birthday Bob. Millions upon millions still love you, all over the universe. Jah bless one and all. RASTAFARI Live!

    • Thank you for the truth.

    • Dude you smoke WAY too much ganja, it is distorting your perception of reality. Bob died from long untreated melanoma. End of story.

      • Adama’s theory is not unusual among some Rastas in Jamaica. I go to Jamaica often and I have some knowledge of the Rasta culture. Rastas smoke ganja in a very spiritual way. For the most part they are a very peaceful and thoughtful people. They are very distrustful of Babylon (United States) as they well should be given our record in the Caribbean and South and Central America. This distrust is very central to their beliefs. Although I am a nurse who has treated many cases of malignant melanoma at a major Northern California treatment center, in medicine nothing is open and shut. I truly believe that Bob’s cancer was not caused by anything other then natural causes, but I do understand Adama’s belief that it was caused by the CIA and I respect his belief and the peaceful practice of Rastafarianism.

  6. [...] Questions; Search Topics and People Did Bob Marley's cancer originate from melanoma of the toe?http://repeatingislands.com/2011…Allegedly for "religious reasons" he refused treatment for long enough that it [...]

  7. [...] http://repeatingislands.com/2011/04/15/a-death-by-skin-cancer-the-bob-marley-story/ Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  8. One love 2 all rastaman

  9. “This can happen by repeated trauma to the area or for no reason at all?”
    There is no evidence at all of trauma causing acral melanoma, and “for no reason at all” is not a very scientific way of putting things – there is a reason, but we don’t know what it is yet. If Bob Marley was murdered, he was murdered in a spectacularly inefficient and new way. And if he was murdered, or did not die of melanoma, why does the official Bob Marley website say he died of melanoma? And the idea that poor oppressed black people do not control any aspect of the health care system, while it has some truth to it, explains nothing about Marley’s death – in fact it was he exercise of control, his refusal to follow medical advice and have his toe amputated, that led to his death

  10. Thanks for the story on Bob Marley and his battle with cancer. Cancer is a disease that hits all nationalities. And the sad thing here is even a popular celebrity can’t get the treatment (he got the money for it, he is not poor) what will the poor persons do?

  11. Excellent article. thanks for posting and writing it. I never knew the cause of Bob’s death. Only that it was cancer. so sad he did not agree to treatment right away. Who knows he might even be around today. But what a talented man. Still love his music.

  12. i hate his death

  13. Reblogged this on bearspawprint.

  14. As if poor people, or middle class people for that matter, of any race or nationality anywhere have any control over the health care system. This idea that black people who are poor are any different from any other race who is poor is a false notion designed to divide us so that the rich thieves can keep us all conquered.

  15. Very sad story. So many variables and steps that for some reason weren’t taken. It seems that his life could’ve and should’ve been saved and whether it was Marley’s stubbornness or a lack of conviction on the doctors’ parts, we’ll never know; probably a combination of the two. A very sad and cautionary tale indeed. RIP.

  16. [...] Uprising in 1980, which was the last studio album the band would release.  According to some, Marley appeared sick at a Madison Square Garden concert during the Uprising tour, and collapsed the next day while [...]

  17. [...] Uprising in 1980, which was the last studio album the band would release.  According to some, Marley appeared sick at a Madison Square Garden concert during the Uprising tour, and collapsed the next day while [...]

  18. [...] Skin disease specialist, Dr Cleland Gooding MD., F.A.A.D has done an extensive chronological research on Bob's diagnosis and treatment. This can be referenced at http://repeatingislands.com/2011/04/15/a-death-by-skin-cancer-the-bob-marley-story/ [...]

  19. I am sitting here in Jamaica on the edge of a cliff looking out to endless blueness and wishing Bob could have made it home to die in Jamaica. I am a nurse from California who specialized in biochemotherapy for malignant melanoma which is a vicious disease. I have seen only one other person with Acral Melanoma, a white man. There is treatment for advanced melanoma but only a small percent of the people treated are “cured”. The amputation of Bob’s toe may not have helped had it been bothering him for a long time as was stated. His life may have been extended though. Unfortunately we will never know. HIs life was too short. He left a wonderful legacy. I am leaving this beautiful island in two days. I have been working a book of my experiences in healthcare and I am starting my chapter on melanoma here in Jamaica. It will be about Bob.

  20. Bob Marley was diagnosed with melanoma at the University Hospital Kingston Jamaica long before going abroad. He was told that amputation was the only option. He decided against it, because he did not want to be “no half-a-foot man”.

  21. Reblogged this on Moorbey'z Blog.

  22. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed
    reading it, you are a great author.I will make certain to bookmark
    your blog and will often come back someday. I want to encourage
    continue your great work, have a nice weekend!

  23. Yeah, skin cancer can be a serious thing. To bad just 36 year. The reggae king.

  24. I knew about Bob’s cancer and how it spread, but my question is… Did the injury bring about awareness that he already had the cancer or did the unhealing toenail bed itself cause him to aquire that type of skin cancer? I’m assuming he already had it but really don’t know.

  25. […] you guessed it – One Guitar/One Voice, which was a departure for him. He had already been diagnosed with cancer by the time he wrote and then later performed this song.  He performed it alone on stage at his […]

  26. Reblogged this on Life on the Golden Rock.

  27. Reblogged this on THE ISLAND JOURNAL and commented:
    Dr Cleland Gooding MD., F.A.A.D., a physician with a specialty in Skin Diseases employed by the Bahamas Government, has penned this intriguing article about Bob Marley’s failed treatment for skin cancer, which eventually progressed to the brain cancer responsible for his death at 36. Here are excerpts, with a link to the original article below.

  28. Bob die from prostate cancer.

  29. This is an article about Bob Marley, yet almost everyone who leaves a post turns it into a “how to blog article” forgetting this amazing person, Bob, who changed the world because he was the exact opposite of most of the people who leave posts here; he did not care about anything but justice and freedom. People this is not about how to blog. This is not about yourselves. This is about Bob. Ask your stupid “how to” questions on the proper forum an show some respect. Get a grip. No one cares if you know how to blog, blah, blah, blah…. It’s not all about you. Really… No. It’s not…Jah Rastafari.

  30. He was a great man in music

  31. Why didn’t Bob Marley take Cannabis Oil to cure his cancer? I’m certain he would have known cannabis Oil cures any type of cancer…..just seems strange to me…rest in peace Bob x

  32. Thank you so much for the kind words about the blog. We are delighted you have found it useful.
    Lisa


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,982 other followers

%d bloggers like this: