LG Petrov is eating a lot of ice cream at the moment. In fact, he’s eating ice cream right now. The giveaway is the semi-constant slurping sound that punctuates our Skype conversation. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I was ordered by the doctor to eat ice cream to help with the dryness of the mouth.”
There are no need for apologies. Petrov has more on his plate than worrying about his table manners. Just over a week ago, the 48-year-old singer with Swedish death metal outfit Entombed AD revealed that he had been diagnosed with incurable bile duct cancer.
“I have been battling it for some time now,” he wrote on a GoFundMe page that had been set up to help support him while he undergoes treatment. “It can’t be removed, but the doctors are trying to control it with chemo therapy. Life takes its weird turns…”
Speaking today, he sounds upbeat despite feeling the effects of a round of chemo he completed just 24 hours before we speak. “I’m a very positive human being,” says LG, who started his career with death metal icons Entombed more than 30 years ago. “This gives you a different perspective on life.”
When did you find out you had cancer?
A couple of months ago. I felt a lump in my solar plexus. And I was, like, ‘OK, I’ll ignore it.’ But then it started to hurt, so I went to the doctor, and they X-rayed it quickly and said, ‘You have to go to the specialist.’ That was weird. You can't imagine what it feels like. Your whole body goes warm. It's, like, ‘Fucking hell.’
What do you know about the cancer you have?
The cancer is called gallvägscancer in Swedish. I didn’t look it up on the internet, because I just don’t want to read about it, but it’s something to do with the bile duct. I've had a few beers throughout my life, but the liver is tip-top. I've smoked a lot, but the lungs are tip-top. It's just very, very bad luck. Cancer doesn't have feelings. It’s just maximum bad luck.
You said it’s ‘uncurable’. But does that mean they can still treat it?
That's what they're hoping for. I will find out when I meet my doctor, who is the best doctor when it comes to this particular cancer. Being young, the doctor said there's hopefully a way to control it so it doesn't spread, or maybe even make it smaller.
How tough is the chemotherapy treatment?
It’s very, very hard stuff. It’s not water they’re putting in you. You're very, very weak. You get all these pills filled with cortisones [a steroid for strength], and you can't sleep. Pills for nausea as well. But if you take a sleeping pill, then it works against it.
I didn’t sleep at all last night. I waited until my local store opened at 8am, then put some clothes on and slowly walked there. It’s a mile but I had to sit down three times to rest. Your body gets so unimaginably weak. But like I say, I’m a positive person.
Have you changed your lifestyle in the last couple of months?
The first day I found out, I quit smoking, quit drinking. I haven't done either in a couple of months. I've gone over to the other side. It feels great! I can smell cigarettes from a hundred yards: 'Oh shit, there's somebody smoking.' It makes me want to puke now.
Have you changed your diet? Have you given up meat or gone vegan?
No. I spoke to a dietician, and they said when you've got this kind of cancer it's not good to be skinny. You should eat a lot of ‘good fat’ - chicken, turkey, bearnaise sauce, stuff like that. Lots of water, lime, oranges too. I was 87 kilos before. Now I’m 93.
The weird thing is, you lose the taste of food, especially after you've had treatment. When you eat, you just chew - you don't get that swallow reaction. It's really, really weird. Sometimes I'm chewing like a camel but not swallowing.
How does it all affect you mentally?
I'm a really positive person, but sometimes you get really depressed, of course. But I have so many good friends that call me, visit me. We sit outside - distanced, of course.
My doctor actually ordered me to have cigars and rum. He said, ‘That’s about life quality.’ Not a lot of rum, just a taste. Same with cigars. But it helps.
The GoFundMe page you launched has been a huge success. As we speak, it’s raised over 750,000 kroner (more than £40,000). That must be an incredible feeling
Actually, Jay Weinberg from Slipknot was the one who suggested it. I was talking to him and he said I should do it, because of all this COVID crap and the financial situation we're in. Some of the pills are pretty expensive, but I aim to donate some of the money to [Swedish children’s cancer fund] Barncancerfonden. I feel like I owe it.
But the response to it has been pretty amazing. I didn’t expect this reaction. People have come together to help out. And a lot of bands shared the post - Behemoth, Amon Amarth. There has been immense support. It brings a tear to your eye. Not one tear. Loads of them!
Nergal went through his own battle with cancer a few years ago. Have you spoken to him about it?
I spoke to him yesterday. I know the ordeal he went through, and he made it. That gives you the strength as well to fight. Fight, fight, fight.
You've got a lot on your plate right now. But are you thinking about Entombed AD? Or are you putting that on the backburner?
Our guitarist, Guilherme, he lived here during the worst of the COVID-19 crap. We actually came up with a lot of new ideas when we were quarantined, but then he went to Portugal. Now I'm just relaxing, taking care of myself, watching movies, listening to Deicide. No stress.
Physically, are you up to singing at the moment?
Not the way I am today. But the voice is still there. We'll see what the plan is with the doctor. There's not any shows planned this year. There are some, but we'll see what the government says.
It is hard to talk about all this?
Actually, I don't care. It is what it is now. It's OK. I tried to keep it secret before. I wanted to keep it secret until I knew what it was. Only my closest friends knew about it. That was the hardest part: telling your good friends that you have cancer. That was the most emotional thing. But after a while it feels like you're lying to people: “Are you OK?” “Yeah, I'm all good.” So I decided I’m just gonna go public with it so I don't have to think about it any more.
Was it a relief?
Yes. It was really a weight lifted. I don't have to think about that any more.
Is there anything you want to add?
A big shout out to the Swedish health service. They’re awesome. They had a really tough spring and summer with the coronavirus, but whenever I come in they’re always happy, always in a good mood. They’re amazing.
But also, have your check-ups once in while. You never know. I wouldn’t wish this shit on anybody,. So take care of yourself and use your common sense.
Donate to LG Petrov’s GoFundMe page here.