“When he was in the throes of figuring out diabetes and all that, a couple of his toes went black from bad circulation and all this,” the guitarist explains.
During a recent conversation with Landry Audio, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian shared a story of late Motorhead leader Lemmy’s struggle with diabetes, explaining how “a cigarette literally saved him from having a part of his body amputated.”
Ian said (via Blabbermouth):
“He literally almost lost a couple of toes. When he was in the throes of figuring out diabetes and all that, a couple of his toes went black from bad circulation and all this.
“He saw some doctor in LA and they were like, ‘Oh, [you must go under the knife] immediately. You’re gonna lose the toes,’ and this and that. And he was like, ‘I need a second opinion.’
“He flew back to London and saw a doctor there, and it was the same kind of thing: ‘We need to get these off. It’s an emergency.’
“So he goes to have the surgery done and he’s sitting in this office. He’s smoking a cigarette and someone tells him, ‘You’re not allowed to smoke in here. What are you – crazy? You can’t smoke in this office.’ And he said, ‘Well if I’m gonna fucking lose a toe, I’m gonna have a fucking cigarette.’
“Long story short, they said, ‘You can’t smoke in here,’ and he said, ‘Well, then I won’t be in here.’ And he left.
“He ended up seeing another doctor, and they literally told him, ‘You just need to change this or this in your diet, and your feet are gonna be fine.’ And he changed his diet, and he didn’t have to have his toes cut off.
“So a cigarette literally saved him from having a part of his body amputated.
“That’s when he started using Diet Coke instead of regular Coke in his Jack-and-Cokes, I believe. The doctor literally told him: ‘Switch to Diet Coke, and you don’t have to lose your toes.’ [Laughs]”
Scott also said about Lemmy switching from Jack-and-Coke to vodka:
“I remember at some point – Lemmy switched to vodka. Like, that was news. In the rock world, that was major headline news.
“I remember hearing that. Like, ‘Lemmy’s got diabetes, and no more Jack-and-Cokes, because of the sugar content. He switched to vodka.’ I was, like, ‘Wow! After 50 years, that’s a big deal.'”
The guitarist continued:
“Look, when a guy like that hits the wall, living the life that he has been living since he was a teenager… The guy had been hitting it hard for 50-odd years already by the time the early two-thousand-tens rolled in. So eventually, you’re gonna hit the wall.
“I don’t care who you are – everyone hits the wall. No matter how healthy you are and no matter how fucked up of a life you led and how hard you lived… and when you’ve lived as hard as Lemmy did – when you hit the wall, it’s gonna be worse than the average human.
“I did spend a lot of time with him over the years; lucky enough for me, it was a privilege to have spent 30-odd years or something knowing him and being friendly with him.
“And I asked him one time about smoking: ‘Do you think you’ll ever quit?’ or this or that. These are questions he just… there wasn’t even an answer to. He wasn’t gonna quit smoking; he wasn’t gonna quit drinking.”
Lemmy died in Los Angeles on December 28, 2015, shortly after his 70th birthday.