It was a big night for country music at the first-ever People’s Country Choice Awards on Thursday (Sept. 28), but an even bigger night for Toby Keith – who not only accepted the inaugural Country Icon Award, but also took the stage to perform in front of a live audience for the first time since his cancer diagnosis.
Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021 but kept his diagnosis a secret for as long as possible. He publicly revealed the diagnosis in June 2022 after a year of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, and provided an optimistic update earlier this year after making his official return to the stage.
He provided yet another update on the red carpet at the People’s Choice Country Awards. “I feel pretty good. It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. You get good days and, you know, you’re up and down, up and down. It’s always zero to 60 and 60 to zero but I feel good today,” he said in an interview with E! News.
Blake Shelton was the one who presented Toby Keith with the Country Icon Award and it made for quite an emotional moment with Shelton performing ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ – one of Keith’s most popular songs. They played an emotional video tribute that celebrated Keith’s 30-year career before accepting the award.
“I want to thank the almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. We’ve been riding shotgun for a little while,” he said in his acceptance speech. “A lot of people go in and make it a big career like this for 30 years,” he continued – thanking his ‘beautiful family,’ his team, his colleagues, and most of all his fans.
Keith also put on an emotional performance of his own when he took to the stage and sang ‘Don’t Let the Old Man In’ – one of his hit songs from 2019 where he writes about getting older and knowing that there’s an end in sight. His loving and adoring wife, Tricia Lucus, was visibly emotional during the performance.
Toby Keith was asked why he decided to sing that specific song. “Well, mainly because I’ve been going through my cancer fight for the last couple of years and it’s really inspiring for a lot of people. And coming back on TV for the first time and performing live in front of a live audience, I thought it was fitting,” he said.
Toby Keith Provided a Health Update Earlier in the Year
Toby Keith has only provided a few updates about his battle with stomach cancer over the past two years, but they’ve always been positive and optimistic updates – which is encouraging for the 62-year-old. His last health update came in June 2023 when he spoke with The Oklahoman about his stomach tumor.
“I’m feeling pretty good … I’m about another eight weeks from my last scan. So I expect next time I look for that tumor to be even less — and I’ve only got one that’s shown up,” he told the outlet – adding that the tumor had shrunk by a third (33%) and his blood tests were starting to show signs of improvement.
It was around that same time that he made his official return to the stage. What was supposed to be a rehearsal on June 30 turned into a full-blown concert – he couldn’t help himself and refused to leave the stage. In fact, he decided to do the same thing the following day – much to the delight of his loyal fans.
“Basically, everything is in a real positive trend. You never know with cancer, so you have to prepare,” he said in his interview with The Oklahoman in June. “I’ve got more wind. And I’m thinking about bringing the band in and setting up, playing two or three days somewhere just to see if I can get through two hours.”
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