Country Icon Toby Keith Finds Strength In Faith During Stomach Cancer Battle: ‘It Was My Rock’

“I don’t know how people do it without faith,” Keith says.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

October 2, 2023


10:24 am

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Toby Keith; Photo by: Mickey Bernal/NBC

Toby Keith says he’s leaned on his faith while battling stomach cancer. 

The 62-year-old was recently honored with the Country Icon Award at the first-ever People’s Choice Country Awards and opened up about his cancer journey in an interview with Fox News Digitial

Keith, who revealed his battle with stomach cancer to fans via social media in June of 2022, said that his faith has helped him get through the tough times.  

“I Just Pray”

Toby Keith; Photo by: Allen Clark/NBC
Toby Keith; Photo by: Allen Clark/NBC

“I lean on my faith and I just pray and lean into it,” the Oklahoma native told the outlet. “You gotta’ do what you gotta’ do, and I don’t know how people do it without faith … that’s what I did, it was my rock.”  

In a separate interview with E! News, Keith had that he was feeling “pretty good” during his battle against stomach cancer. 

The disease is “a little bit of a roller coaster,” Keith said. 

“You’re Up and Down”

Toby Keith, Tricia Lucus arrive to the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry House on September 28, 2023; Photo by Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC
Toby Keith, Tricia Lucus arrive to the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry House on September 28, 2023; Photo by Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC

“You get good days and, you know, you’re up and down, up and down,” he admitted and later added, “It’s always zero to 60 and 60 to zero but I feel good today.” 

Keith attended the show alongside his wife, Tricia Lucus, who walked the red carpet with him prior to the show at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. 

Award Presentation

During the show, the country music legend was presented with the Country Icon Award from fellow Oklahoma native, Blake Shelton. 

Toby Keith accepts the Country Icon award from Blake Shelton; Photo by: Mickey Bernal/NBC
Toby Keith accepts the Country Icon award from Blake Shelton; Photo by: Mickey Bernal/NBC

Following Shelton’s performance of “Who’s Your Daddy,” Keith appeared on stage to deliver a heartfelt acceptance speech. 

“Y’all never thought you’d see me in skinny jeans. I want to thank the Almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. You’ve been riding shotgun with me for a little while. Want to thank my beautiful family [is] here,” he said. “A lot of people go in and make it a big career like this of 30 years, my manager, TK Kimbrell, Brian O’Connell, Elaine Schock, the band and the crew and everybody that’s all behind this thing, all the great musicians that have played on all of these albums in the studios, they’ve poured their heart and soul into what I do. And most of all, I want to thank the fans for still allowing us to do what we do. So God bless you. Thank you.” 

Later, he grabbed his guitar for a poignant performance of his song, “Don’t Let The Old Man In.” 

“Don’t Let The Old Man In”

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“Many moons I have lived/ My body’s weathered and worn/ Ask yourself how would you be/ If you didn’t know the day you were born,” Keith sang while his wife, Tricia Lucus, could be seen shedding tears from the front of the audience. 

Toby Keith penned “Don’t Let The Old Man In” for the film The Mule starring Clint Eastwood. This was an emotional moment, given Keith’s current health condition. 

First Awards Show Performance Since 2017

The performance marked Keith’s first time performing on an awards show since 2017 when he appeared on ACM Honors when he performed “Who’s Your Daddy.”

The Country Icon Award honors Toby Keith for “his decades-long career as a groundbreaking musician, humanitarian and entrepreneur.” The award also recognized Keith’s 30-year career as a musician, philanthropist and entrepreneur. 

Toby Keith; Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC
Toby Keith; Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC

32 Chart-Topping Singles

With 32 No.1 singles and 40 million albums sold, Toby Keith is regarded as one of country music’s biggest hitmakers. He wrote a chart-topping hit every year for 20 consecutive years, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American),” “I Love This Bar,” “Beer For My Horses,” and “As Good As I Once Was.”

He is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (having already been inducted into the all-genre Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015), and was honored with the Academy of Country Music’s prestigious Merle Haggard Spirit Award.

Throughout his career, the Oklahoma native received the BMI Icon Award as well as the BMI Country Songwriter of the Year award three times, and his hit single “As Good As I Once Was” was awarded BMI’s Country Song of the Year in 2006.

His music has garnered more than 10 billion streams and 100 million terrestrial radio spins to date.

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Giving Back

Keith’s most rewarding experiences, however, have come from giving back locally, nationally, and abroad. His annual golf classics fund the Toby Keith Foundation and OK Kids Korral, a cost-free home for families of children dealing with critical illnesses, and his 11 USO tours have enhanced the lives of nearly 256,000 troops and military families. 

In 2014, he was given the Spirit of the USO Award for his work with the organization, which has so far included 11 tours and more than 285 events in over 18 countries. In an even more personal instance of philanthropy, he became the face of his hometown after it was ravaged by a tornado, shouldering the cleanup, and headlining the 2013 OK Twister Relief Concert.

If all goes well, Toby Keith says he plans to return to performing this fall.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.