This article was originally posted online at NYPOST.com’s Page Six on June 1, 2015. Written by Emily Smith
Roger Daltrey continues his crusade against adolescent cancer
Legendary rocker Roger Daltrey just performed at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with his band The Who and with Bruce Springsteen at a MusicCares event – but said his real heroes are the adolescents battling cancer he helps through his organization Teen Cancer America.
Daltrey, 71, has for decades raised money for the UK’s successful Teenage Cancer Trust, and has now expanded his vision to the US with Teen Cancer America. The organization aims to improve the quality of life for young adults with cancer, by bridging the gap between pediatric and adult care, as adolescents are currently treated in the same units as very young children or much older adults.
Daltrey last week visited Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital to open a new adolescent cancer center which includes a communal lounge, a mentoring program led by survivors and an app where patients nationwide can share their experiences.
Of his work with adolescents with cancer, Daltrey said, “This gives me so much joy. You meet these kids who are the literal heroes, I just look up to them so much, they inspire me.” He continued, “You get one life, one chance, I walked out of school on my 15th birthday, with the headmaster screaming in my ears, ‘You’ll never make anything from your life Daltrey!’ I walked out with a grin on my face and I thought ‘Well I’ll f**king show him’.”
“And that’s my attitude, nothing is impossible. When I look back at my life, and think of the things we had to deal with, it’s been an insane life, a life of incredible privilege, incredible ups and downs…..then this came at a time when I was thinking what do I do with my life after music, a light bulb went on, and I thought, how come no-one’s noticed [that teens with cancer have no special care]? It was like walking out of the headmasters office again, I thought, ‘I’ll f**king show you, I’ll do this’.”
Daltrey says he hopes by the end of next year to have funded and built 12 adolescent cancer centers in hospitals across the US including, Stamford, University of Chicago, UCLA and Nashville’s Vanderbilt, and they are in talks with more hospitals nationwide. He and his bandmate Pete Townshend have recruited stars including Eddie Vedder, Joan Jett, Elvis Costello, Joe Walsh and The Band Perry to help with fundraising concerts. They are also working with Hernan Barangan, a filmmaker and two-time cancer survivor, who has traveled to 50 states to film the stories and voices of young cancer patients.
Daltrey continued, “There are 30 teens adolescents and young adults diagnosed a day with cancer, apart from leukemia there’s been virtually no improvement in the success rate of curing the cancers in teens since the 1970s. By having these units and identifying this group it will help researchers focus on why that is, and that will improve the medicine.”
He added, “It just makes so much sense to me, this is something relatively cheap in medical terms, it just takes goodwill from the doctors, the hospitals and the administrators, and what you will provide is a movement and a community of young people that go on to enhance society as a whole in the future, beyond anything we could ever imagine.
Of his life performing – The Who is in the middle of its its 50th anniversary world tour – and helping young people with cancer, “[On stage] I kind of go out of myself, its’ build yourself into a rock star’ time, but as soon as you come off stage, I’m back to being old Roger again..I still carry that teen in me because I sing those songs every night, and I can relate to them, but when I look into the eyes of parents [of kids diagnosed with cancer] I do struggle with that, and all I can say is, we’ll always be there for you, and I just hope we can make it a bit better.”