The new year has gotten off to a rough start for Dallas metal fans. Local metal legend Bruce Corbitt has entered hospice care. The former lead signer of Rigor Mortis and Warbeast, the 56-year-old Corbitt has been battling stage 4 esophageal cancer since early 2018. He's been chronicling this battle on Facebook and inspiring metal fans from around the world who appear in his comments, quoting the fuck cancer hashtag and offering emotional support.
“I'm never gonna stop fighting,” he said in a video posted to Facebook. “You all know that about me. It's just tough to even use those words: hospice, man. I never thought I would ever get to that point.”
Corbitt's rise to metal fame began in the late '80s when he was tapped to become the lead singer for Rigor Mortis. He'd been a fan of their music ever since they first appeared on the DFW metal scene. He attended their shows, gave band members rides and tattooed their songs on his heart. He says he knew that one day he'd be joining his brothers — Casey Orr, Harden Harrison and Mike Scaccia — onstage.
“I felt it was the next level of heavy metal,” Corbitt told the Observer in July 2017. “It was the fact that it was about the music and not dressing up like a rock star.”
Once Corbitt joined the band, their status in the local metal scene rose and caught the attention of Capital Records. They released a self-titled debut album. Corbitt parted ways with the band shortly after the album's release. Rigor Mortis would move on with a new singer but lost that intensity, love and passion that Corbitt brought to the stage.
“I'll be the first to admit that that was probably a bad decision,” Orr would later say.
A decade later, Corbitt would return to the stage with Warbeast, a local supergroup formerly known as Texas Metal Alliance. Pantera's Phil Anselmo's Housecore Records signed the band, and three albums and one EP followed: 2010's Krush The Enemy, 2013's Destroy and the EP War of the Gargantuas and 2017's Enter the Arena. “So finally I had something I felt was as good as Rigor Mortis,” Corbitt told the Observer in 2017.
Corbitt also made amends with his Rigor Mortis brothers in the early 2000s. They would gather again for 2014's Slaves to the Grave.
Corbitt was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer in May 2017. Two months later, Warbeast gathered for one last show. Several metal icons, including Anselmo, took over vocal duties for Corbitt, who watched from the side of the stage. “In retirement, know this: You made a dent in this crazy biz, and yes, your contribution to the long line of great metal vocalists is valid as it comes,” Anselmo wrote in an email shortly before the show. “Rest up, heal up and come back swinging. We need ya, man.”
Corbitt spent the rest of the year trying to rest and heal. He put his body through radiation and chemotherapy and held out hope that it would stop the spread of cancer. Then he received the devastating news that his cancer was now stage 4. He was given two months to two years to live but was told he would be lucky to make it a year.
“I may not have won this fight, but I did beat it longer than most would have,” Corbitt said in a Facebook Live video in late December 2017. “I got some extra time in life. I couldn't have done it without my beautiful wife Jeanna Corbitt. The hardest part for me is just knowing that I will have to leave her.”
But he still hadn't given up. “I've got a 2.8 percent chance of living five years,” he told Billboard Magazine in an Aug. 29 article. “So what am I going to do, sit around and cry about it or be that 2.8 percent?”
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Only he wasn't just battling cancer. He was also warring with health insurance and lost more battles than he won. He faced delays and denials, signed up for a clinical trial only to learn that his cancer wasn't treatable. Yet, despite these obstacles, he was beating the odds. He returned to the stage in Fort Worth to renew his wedding vows with Jeanna in late April and rejoined Warbeast for a show in July for the Fort Worth Weekly's music awards. “All I know is I get to experience that feeling of being on stage again,” Corbitt told fans on Facebook. “And that's why I keep on fighting. Because good things do finally happen if you can just hang in there long enough. You know damn well!”
Fans have been supporting him all through his fight, posting memes of Batman and memories of meeting Corbitt on Facebook. A fundraiser page was started on Fundrazr.com to help with his medical bills. More than $20,000 of his $50,000 goal has been raised. “Keep your chin up, Bruce!” one anonymous contributor posted. “You and your family are in my thoughts and in my prayers.” It's a comment repeated by many people.
Corbitt found out about another clinical trial and learned in late December that his daughter's blood was a match for treatment. “Batman and Batgirl joining forces by combining our blood together,” he wrote in a Dec. 27 Facebook post. “This makes us even stronger to beat our toughest Villain ever.... Stage 4 terminal cancer. You can see her Natural Killing Cells IV bag being released into me in this picture. This makes us unbeatable and cancer has no chance now! You know damn well!”
A few weeks later, Corbitt announced in a Facebook Live video that he was entering hospice care with a 24-hour morphine drip. “Man, I'm still fighting, fighting, fighting,” he said, raising his fist.