Rush details Neil Peart’s cancer fight and his desire to ‘have fun with us’ until the very end

An in-depth look into Peart's health struggles and why he wanted to keep them private
Photo credit Getty Images

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson have opened about the health issues Neil Peart dealt with in his final years and his desire to keep matters private up until his passing.

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The surviving members of Rush participated in an interview with Rolling Stone as part of a lengthy profile of the late drummer. Peart first began to notice something was wrong back in June 2016.

Peart’s ritual of completing the New York Times Sunday puzzle suddenly became a struggle. Two months later, he was much quieter than normal and began "making mistakes with his words."

He was rushed to a doctor and after an MRI followed by surgery, Peart was diagnosed with glioblastoma.

Lifeson recalled the phone call he received from Peart finding out he had been diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer. “It was so unusual to get a call from him, because he was never comfortable on the phone,” Lifeson said.

“You’d get these beautiful emails from him. But he wasn’t that crazy about talking to anybody. I was in shock. But I could tell there was something weird. I thought maybe it was a difficulty with a connection or something. But he just didn’t seem like he normally was. And I kept thinking about it afterwards.”

About two weeks later, Peart confirmed his diagnosis to Lifeson and Lee through an email. “He basically blurted it out, ‘I have a brain tumor. I’m not joking,’” Lee said.

Peart requested that his bandmates keep his diagnosis and health issues private. “He wanted to be in control of it,” Lifeson said.

“The last thing in the world he would want is people sitting on his sidewalk or driveway singing ‘Closer to the Heart’ or something. That was a great fear of his. He didn’t want that attention at all.”

Early on in his illness, Peart was in remission for about a year before the cancer had returned. It marked an uncertain period as Lee described it as “every time you said goodbye to him, you said goodbye, because you honestly didn’t know.”

Despite the uncertainty and decline in his health, Lee said that Peart was as cheerful as ever and was happy to discuss old stories with his bandmates.

“He didn’t want to waste his remaining time talking about s*** like that,” Lee said. “He wanted to have fun with us. And he wanted to talk about real things right up to the very end.”

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