Here’s Why Bob Marley Decided Not to Have Surgery That Could’ve Saved His Life

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While most fans know that Bob Marley endured a long and grueling battle with cancer, one aspect some might not realize was the preventable nature of his death. With just one routine operation, Marley could have stopped the cancer that ended up spreading to his brain.

So why did he opt out of the treatment?

The pain was not significant but had been bothering him on and off for the last few years. After running some tests, the doctors discovered that Marley had a rare but fast-growing form of cancer called acral melanoma beneath his toenail.

They could stop the spread of cancer by amputating the toe. But Marley refused, and opted instead for a less invasive solution.

Marley recovered from the minimal surgery and continued touring. He was in the process of scheduling a world tour in 1980. On September 21, 1980, Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park.

Marley played his final concert on September 23 at the Stanley Theatre (now the Benedum Center) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As his health deteriorated, he flew to Jamaica to be among family and friends. But sadly, he never finished that last trip to his birthplace. His organs started to shut down, and the plane made an emergency landing in Miami, Florida. Marley died there on May 11, 1981 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. He was 36 years old.

As a devout Rastafarian, Marley abstained from any incisions or body modifications that he deemed “unnecessary.” The belief is based on Leviticus 21:5 in the Old Testament, “They shall not make baldness upon their heads, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.” So while his death very well could have been prevented, Marley went to his grave without compromising his spiritual beliefs.