Country music superstar Toby Keith was honored with the prestigious Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 Country Music Association Awards. During his emotional acceptance speech, Keith offered rare personal insight into his private battle with stomach cancer over the past year.
The award capped off an extraordinarily difficult year for Keith, who revealed in June 2021 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer earlier that spring. The news sent shockwaves through the country music community, as the famously hardy veteran performer had never previously disclosed any major health issues.
In his characteristically candid manner, Keith acknowledged that the past 12 months spent secretly undergoing intensive treatment had been a grueling “roller coaster ride.” The 61-year-old singer-songwriter expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support he had received from family, friends, and fans throughout his challenging cancer journey.
Remarking on the physically draining process of chemotherapy and radiation, Keith said the treatments had left him exhausted and sick. But he maintained the perseverant spirit that has defined his music and life, continuing to write songs and even performing on occasion when his strength permitted.
Now in remission, Keith said he hopes to leverage his celebrity to raise greater awareness of cancer screenings and much-needed research. He spoke passionately about the tens of thousands of lives lost annually to cancer, emphasizing the urgent need for improved treatments and preventative care.
Closing his poignant speech, a clearly emotional Keith thanked his family and friends for their unwavering support during the darkest period of his life. He also expressed heartfelt gratitude to his medical team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the live-saving care that helped him defeat cancer.
With his trademark grit and good-humored charm fully intact, Keith vowed to fans that he’s “not done yet” – promising new music is still to come. The Country Music Icon Award was a celebration of Keith’s legendary career, but the country star made clear on this night that his toughest battles are now behind him.