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Why did Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood refuse chemo? Because 'this hair wasn’t going anywhere'

 (Victoria Will / Invision/Associated Press)
(Victoria Will / Invision/Associated Press)

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood has opened up about his lung cancer scare and how he spared his iconic mullet in the process.

"There was a week when everything hung in the balance and it could have been curtains -- time to say goodbye. You never know what is going to happen," the 70-year-old English rocker told the the U.K.'s Mail on Sunday.

Nicknamed "Reckless Ronnie" for his years of hard partying, the musician said his doctor discovered he had lung cancer last May during a routine health check ahead of the Stones' European tour in September. After examining his heart, lungs and blood, they found a cancerous lesion -- "this supernova burning away on my left lung" -- and he underwent a five-hour operation to remove it.

"He asked me what I wanted to do and my answer was simple: 'Just get it out of me,'" Wood said.

The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, who joined the Stones in 1975, wasn't surprised by the discovery because he hadn't had a chest X-ray since 2002, when he was in rehab at Cottonwood Tucson in Arizona during one of many of his attempts to get clean.

He was prepared for bad news but had faith he would be OK, though he and his third wife, Sally Humphreys, decided not to tell anyone else about the scare because they "didn't want to put anyone else through the hell we were going through."

The hell-raising star's decades of debauchery came to an end fairly recently. He's been "clean" for eight years and he kicked his smoking habit last year ahead of the birth of his fifth and sixth children, twin daughters Gracie and Alice.

"I had this thought at the back of my mind after I gave up smoking a year ago: 'How can I have got through 50 years of chain-smoking – and all the rest of my bad habits – without something going on in there?'"

Wood was resolute that if the cancer had spread, he wouldn't go through chemo, or as he put it: "I wasn't going to use that bayonet in my body." But it wasn't because he didn't think the chemo would work. 

"No. It’s more I wasn’t going to lose my hair. This hair wasn’t going anywhere. I said, 'No way.' And I just kept the faith it would be all right," he said. "A week later they came back with the news that it hadn’t spread and I said, 'Let's get it out now.' Just before I closed my eyes for the operation I looked at the doctor and said, 'Let battle commence.'"

The rocker, who's promoting his new book, "Ronnie Wood: Artist," said he's "OK now" and encouraged others to get screened.

"People have to get checked. Seriously have to get checked. I was bloody lucky, but then I've always had a very strong guardian angel looking out for me. By rights I shouldn’t be here," he said.

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