The rumours are true, Stan Walker had cancer. The key word - had.

The 27-year-old singer has had his stomach removed, but that was just the beginning of a health battle that, he says, almost killed him. And now? Well, he certainly doesn't want your sympathy.


Walker, photographed by Alex King in February 2018.

Walker, photographed by Alex King in February 2018.

The cancer was the easiest part. The deadliest, but the easiest.

People will say, 'I knew it. He has cancer'. But I don't have cancer any more. This weight loss, I wish it was from cancer and it was that simple. I lost 20kg from a gallbladder issue. Who would have known?

I mean, I've been waiting to get skinny for ages, but s..., they could have left my bum and my shoulders.

The complications have been worse than the actual surgery. It's been full on, but not in the way that you'd think.




Our family has an aggressive CDH1 hereditary mutation, which means about an 80 per cent chance of getting stomach cancer.

I've watched so many people die in front of me. Over half the coffins in our Marae are from cancer.

Mum had breast cancer and basically, it stemmed from our gene. Then, last year, she found some new doctors and was like, 'oh my gosh, son, you need to come and have this test. They know about our family, they know about the gene'. She was hounding me. I finally flew over to Melbourne – I was still really annoyed. It was the standard test, that I've done so many times.

The year before, I actually thought I had cancer. I'd had stomach issues and the test found polyps and erosion – but no cancer. I remember they said then I needed to get my stomach out ASAP, and I basically just blanked the doctors and acted like nothing happened. I wasn't in a good place at that time. I was going through some stuff and I wasn't about to deal with that s.... So I carried on.

I don't like doctors. I don't want to know – it's easier not knowing.

This time, I told them to call Mum if they needed to contact me. And she called me, crying. 'Son, they think they've found some cancer, but they're not sure.' An hour later, she called again and told me they had found cancer.

To be honest, I wasn't shocked. I know no one's destined to have cancer, no one's destined to get sick and die. This is a gene, things just happen. But I always felt like it was going to happen.

I was praying, 'Alright God, I'm ready to go through whatever I need to. Use me as an example'.

I felt like I was going to go through anything and everything that could go wrong, but there's going to be a purpose. I just didn't know everything that was going to happen.



Walker at 16, around the same time he was diagnosed as carrying the CDH1 gene. STAN WALKER/INSTAGRAM

Walker at 16, around the same time he was diagnosed as carrying the CDH1 gene. STAN WALKER/INSTAGRAM

When I found out I had cancer, one brother couldn't deal with it and the other blamed me. It's normal, we're a family where, if you get hurt it's like, 'well, what did you do?' I understand, because I would have done the same thing – you're just looking to blame something, or somebody.

I'm not trying to sound like a hero, but I'm glad my brothers and my sister don't have the gene.

My two older brothers are fathers, and my little brother and sister are just babies. I'm glad that, of anyone in my family, I got it.

I found out I had the gene when I was 15 or 16. My whole family were dramatic, crying. In our case, everyone has died. You have the gene, you get the cancer, you dead. We've got no survivors in my direct line, except me and Mum.

I got scared, and then I got over it. Maybe I've just blocked it out. I think about it, and I know I've got it, but it's only important when I talk to other people.

My little brother and sister got tested last year, and I was so worried. When Mum told me they don't have the gene, I was cut [up], but then I thought 'thank you Jesus'. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. It was so awesome, but I did feel discouraged. It was just me. Me. I think that's when it affected me the most.

Mum's brother and sister and all their kids, they have the gene. My dad's family were riddled with it, and half of them are dead. But it's just me and Mum. I am my mother's son in every way.

I know for everyone who carries the gene, and who has or wants kids, you get scared.

Of course I'm scared of passing it onto my children.

That is the one thing I don't want to do. But with IVF they can take out the gene, which is amazing. Yeah, I want to do that – but I never thought I would be having a conversation about IVF!




I was meant to have the operation to remove my stomach not long after the cancer diagnosis, but I said no, not now – I had to finish my work. I pushed it out by two months. I wasn't going to stop my life for this. That logic is stupid, but I love working.

The longest I've had off was three weeks – and that was hard. And I took off heaps of time when Mum got cancer, but I was still recording. But this was like, no.

I need to work. I need things coming out while I'm in hospital. I need people to think I'm still there and nothing is wrong. I don't like saying 'I'm sick'.

On paper, the surgery is kind of a simple thing. My little cousin was up three weeks later, no complications. He just had to get used to eating again.

I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, though. Everyone thinks if you believe in God, life's all easy and nice. But man, if you see me in my car in traffic, I ain't no Christian. I love Jesus, but he loves me more!

So, I had my stomach removed on September 14, 2017.

Nothing was really going on in my head the night before surgery. I just ate and ate everything. And man, it was good. It was sad too, because I love food. I went on a takeaway binge, three times a day, beforehand. It got so bad I started losing my taste buds.

On the day though, I just wanted everything to hurry up. Hurry up and get me to sleep, I want to wake up and it be done. I thought I'd be scared, but I never was.

It was keyhole surgery, so lots of little holes. Now my oesophagus is attached to my small intestines, which operates as a small stomach. Eventually it will stretch – within six months, I will be eating normally again, everything should be functioning.

I don't have the acids a normal stomach has, so it just lets the food out straight away. But I can feel it. If I've eaten too much, too quickly, it's sore. I can feel it go down, and have to wait for it to get out. My appetite is the same as it was before – I'm hungry all the time – but I can't eat the way I used to. Now, I do crave healthy food. The thought of takeaways makes me sick.

After the surgery, I felt like s.... I felt like my body was one big, swollen wound.

I just remember it was the worst time in my life. The pain, the breathing, no eating, just laying there like a vegetable. I looked like a big spud.

They found 13 spots of cancer in my stomach. If I hadn't got it out, well, our cancer spreads so quick, that right now I'd either be dead or on my way out. Long term, I have to have injections of vitamin B12 every three months – I'll die without it, because that's how our bodies make blood. But I am cancer free, I'm just like everybody else.

Still now, I'm still learning but I'm a lot more wary and conscious – I just want to live. I've been in hospital too many times and I've sat there, as I'm about to die. I've thought to myself, this is how I'm going to go.




After the surgery, I had a collapsed lung, then, when I went in for a routine stretch [of the connection between the small intestine and oesophagus] I coughed, woke up and there was a leak, which meant if I ate or drank anything, I could have died.

They put me on a picc line – an IV all the way through, straight to my heart. It was meant to be for a couple of days, but I was on that machine for two weeks. Two weeks for 23 hours a day. As soon as it was my one hour off, I would shower, walk out to the garden and get some fresh air and then come back in and lie down.

But the the first time I thought I was really going to die was at home.

After surgery, I was stuck inside for six weeks, I couldn't really walk – could only go as far as the kitchen – and I just needed to get outside, to have some fresh air.

I went to the zoo with my family, I was in a wheelchair, and I got cold. I didn't know I had almost no immune system – everything was gone. I just wanted to be outside, to feel normal.

When you are lying in bed for that long, you are willing to risk everything just to feel the air in your lungs. Just to be out in the world. I was willing – and I've done it too many times – to risk it all just for that moment. That's how desperate I got.

At home, I started to get a fever, to feel sick, my bones were aching. I went from my normal colour, to pure white. I watched the blood just go out of my arms. Mum was in the lounge, but everything seized up.

My neck, my jaw, I couldn't yell. I was freezing and everything hurt. I couldn't call out, and I thought, 'yes, this is how I'm going to die'.

My phone was on my chest, and I pressed Mum's number and she came running in.

I saw her face when she looked at me – she said I looked dead.

I was just fighting.

Just breathe, just breathe.

Throughout my life, I've wanted to die so many times. I tried to commit suicide when I was a kid and even as an adult, things get too overwhelming. That's why I like talking about that stuff – people think it just ends when you get successful, but it just gets worse. You're an adult now, you're more developed, there's more pressure, you know more things and you get overwhelmed by things.

But thinking about the number of times I wanted to be right there in that position, in the moment, when I almost died, now, I was fighting for my life.





Later, they took my appendix out too. The emergency surgery was meant to take 15 minutes – it took five and a half hours. And when they pulled it out, there was nothing wrong with it. I remember waking up and feeling so much pain, I was so sore. I stayed in hospital for another week.

Then in January my stomach started hurting again. I thought it was indigestion, but then it felt like my gallstones. I held it together for two weeks, and then I was in the middle of rehearsing for [Tauranga] One Love festival – which was three days away. I was lying on the couch, trying to learn moves and then in 10 minutes, my body just shut down.

My bones were aching – I couldn't even lie there with my legs touching.

It got worse and worse. Next minute, I'm in hospital again. After a day, they wanted to do emergency surgery, for an infected gallbladder, but I said 'no, tonight I have a dinner with the Prime Minister'. So that whole thing, that Jacinda Ardern was talking about on Instagram, had nothing to do with cancer – I told her I had gallstones. There was assumption after assumption [from the public]. And the assumptions were wrong.

I was on all the drugs, my antibiotics, and the next day I had to go and do One Love. I felt good, I was being really careful. And I thought I had been eating really well, but I was eating heaps of oil and butter, which was inflaming my gallbladder. Come on, my life sucks man. I finally find some food that I like, and you take it away from me?

It's the hardest thing. I wake up and it's like, 'S..., what can I eat?'. And when I'm somewhere where there's no food, do I not eat and lose more weight and get depressed from not putting on weight? Or do I eat something that's going to make me sick, but might sustain my weight? I literally feel like I lose at some point of the day, every day. Right now, I can sustain my weight, but I can't gain any.

I don't realise how skinny I am until I'm naked and I see myself in the mirror.

Before all of this, I was 102 kg and now I'm 67 kg. I feel like a little kid. I'm still getting used to my body.

There's part of me that's still numb, that hasn't felt anything, and there's a big part of me that moved on before I even had the surgery. Then, there's another part of me that wants to live my best life, make the best music.




I didn't even really say it to myself, but if I couldn't sing, it was going to be a big issue for me. I got frustrated to the point of swearing, just trying to hum.

I had these little dips, these deep, dark dips that only lasted about 30 seconds, and then I would pull myself out. If my voice didn't come back, I thought I'm done. I'm over it. I'm done trying with this life. That's my purpose. I don't know what I would do, or who I would be, if I couldn't do the one thing I love doing. My gift.

It sounds stupid, but I hate being a pussy.

I hate looking weak and I hate having to ask for help.

When it makes me look like I'm unable, I feel weak in myself, my pride. And that can be the biggest downfall.

I can talk about anything and everything, I have no hang ups, but I found I talk about difficult things after I've come through them. That's why, for this documentary, I want to show everything when I'm in it. I'm still not out of it.

But when I'm around people, I make sure they know nothing. I go home, and I just die. I am exhausted physically, mentally, everything.

I don't want people feeling sorry for me, or acting like I can't do anything.

I have the people that do know, watching me.

And now, I say no [to bad decisions]. I want to live. I want to be healthy. I don't want another operation. I don't want to get down to my last bone and feel weak.


Stan Walker, photographed by Alex King in February 2018.

Stan Walker, photographed by Alex King in February 2018.

It makes you way different, aye? I've come into a new season of change – not just because of this. For two years, it was a full-on drought, in my spirit, everything. I lost the joy for everything I love, singing, relationships, family, all of it.

In 2016, it was to the point where I couldn't control my mind. I just thought I was going crazy in my head – I wouldn't let anyone see that though. I just hated the world, hated everything. I had no control over my feelings. I just felt like, ugh, I'm done. Done with everything.

It was an encounter that I had with God [that got me out of it], things reminding me who I am, and what my purpose is. Reminders that the sun's still there, despite the rain and hail. All of this is part of it, just in a different way.

Last year was the worst and the best. It was the death of so many things, but when death comes, there is always new life.

When you are lying in bed, staring at the same four walls for three months and you can't do anything for yourself, you can't function, you realise you want to live your best life. I want to do what I want to do and I want to do it well. I'm so competitive and motivated, that no one is going to stop me.

I'm not going to sit there and wait for people to do things for me. It's on me now. Life is way too short. You. Could. Die.

People think you have to stop and be sad, but I am fine homie. I've never been better – obviously there are little things – but I feel so good. I wouldn't be performing on a stage if I wasn't. Mind you, most of those times I was on Tramadol! If anything though, it's time to go harder – be careful – but go hard.

Of course I want to be successful, but more than anything, I want to be happy.

And my little cupcake – with the cream and cherry – was all pain and misery, and the cancer was the cherry on top to get me to being happy.


    WORDS Stan Walker, as told to Bridget Jones
    DESIGN & LAYOUT Kylie Klein-Nixon

    Stan screens at 8.40pm, March 25 on Three.

    Walker's new EP, Stan, will be available to download from 8pm.

    Stan Walker, photographed by Alex King in February 2018.

    Stan Walker, photographed by Alex King in February 2018.