“I was worried my career was over,” he stated

Nicko McBrain Iron Maiden
Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden [Alamy]

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain has revealed that he suffered a stroke back in January and is still recovering. In a video shared on the band’s social media, the legendary 71-year-old drummer stated that the stoke left him “paralyzed” on the right side of his body, and he feared that his career might have been over. Read his full statement below now.

Hello Boys and Girls,

I hope this message finds you all well!

The reason I’m writing to you all today is to let you know of a very serious health problem that I have been through. In January I had a stroke, thank the Lord it was a minor one referred to as a TIA. It left me paralyzed on my right side from my shoulder on down, of course I was very worried that my career was over but with the love and support from my wife, Rebecca and family, my doctors, especially Julie my OT (Occupational Therapist), and my Maiden family I was able to bounce back to somewhere near 70% recovered. After 10 weeks of intense therapy it was almost time to start rehearsals for our tour. I feel it’s important to let you know about this now instead of earlier as I was mainly concerned with doing my job and concentrating on getting back to 100% fitness. I’m not there yet but by the grace of God I’m getting better and stronger as the weeks go by.

Thank you all for a most wonderful and magical tour so far, you have all been so amazing.

Well that’s it from me. God bless you all, stay safe and well and I look forward to seeing you all somewhere in time.

– Nicko

Iron Maiden’s longtime manager Rod Smallwood adds, “The rest of the band and l think that what Nicko has been able to achieve since his stroke shows incredible belief and willpower and we are all very proud of him. With this new and musically very complex set to learn ahead of him, he just got his head down and concentrated on recovery. We honestly did not know if he would be able to play a whole show until band rehearsals started in May and there was just so much support for him from the band and then genuine relief for all when we saw he was going to be able to do it!

“Nicko being Nicko he did not want to make a fuss and cause any distraction to the tour at the time but, now that he is sure he will soon get there, he thought you fans should know straight from him rather than by any rumours!

“We are all of course delighted he battled through this so well and look forward to many more tours together starting with the three Western Canada shows and Power Trip in California coming up in a couple of months time. We can’t wait! This tour is that good!”

This isn’t Nicko’s first health battle. In 2021, he revealed he was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer back in 2020. McBrain publicly broke the news in a low-key interview with the University of Miami (U.S.) School of Medicine.

Laryngeal cancer occurs when cancer cells form on the larynx, the part of the throat between the base of the tongue and the trachea. The larynx contains a person’s vocal cords. They vibrate and make sound when air is directed against them. The sound echoes through the pharynx, mouth, and nose to make a person’s voice. In 2019, McBrain began to notice a change in the sound of his voice.

“When I play drums with the band, I actually sort of scream and yell while I play, like a Judo guy slapping the mat,” McBrain said. He initially thought that this was the reason for the change in his voice. However, he soon started to realize that something else may be wrong.

“When you are lying down in a quiet room and you speak and hear your voice in your head and have a cold, you sound different,” McBrain told the University of Miami School of Medicine. “This happened to me. I thought this is very reminiscent — this different sounding voice of mine — to when I finish a tour or after a show. I didn’t have a cold or any symptoms of illness at all. I started to feel that I was clearing my throat more when I was in conversations. So, I just took it on myself to call my doctor.”

McBrain was diagnosed with stage 1 laryngeal cancer. He went to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 71 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the United States and one of only two in Florida. Cancer in this part of the body can grow in and around vocal cords and other structures near the voice box. It takes sub-specialists like those at Sylvester to accurately diagnose and treat these types of cancers.

Nicko’s family doctor referred him to David E. Rosow, M.D., FACS, director of the Division of Laryngology and Voice at the University of Miami Health System, who performed the endoscopy in 2020 and diagnosed Nicko stage 1 laryngeal cancer. Dr. Rosow removed the cancer the following week. Now, Nicko gets check-ups every few months to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned

“I thoroughly recommend that anyone who may feel there is something different with their voice to go and get it checked out,” McBrain said. “And don’t put it off. It was very good for me that I caught it in stage 1.”

Iron Maiden brought their Legacy of the Beast Tour back to North American last year for another massive run. The band’s latest album Senjutsu arrived in 2021. The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Rock and Top Hard Rock Albums charts. In October, they’re returning to North American for a string of shows in Canada, followed by an appearance Power Trip in Indio, California alongside Metallica, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Judas Priest, and Tool.