Toby Keith returns to stage, delivers first television performance since stomach cancer diagnosis

Toby Keith returned to the stage to perform in front of his peers and fans for the first time in two years since his cancer diagnosis.

The country star was part of the lineup for the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Not only did Keith, 62, perform on television in front of a live audience, but he also accepted the first Country Icon Award.

In fall 2021, Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer and announced he would be stepping back from the spotlight to receive treatment.

This summer, the country icon began hinting he was itching to get back on the road.

“I’ve spent the last 6 months receiving chemo, radiation, and surgery,” he wrote in a tweet. “So far, so good. I need time to breathe, recover and relax.”

“I am looking forward to spending time with my family,” Keith added. “But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can’t wait.”

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 28: Toby Keith attends the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards at The Grand Ole Opry on September 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

While on the red carpet for the inaugural event, Keith told E News he felt “pretty good.”

“It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. You get good days and, you know, you’re up and down, up and gown. It’s always zero to 60 and 60 to zero but I feel good today.”

Fellow country star Blake Shelton had the honor of leading the tribute to Keith. The singer and former Voice coach performed one of Keith’s songs before sharing a few words about the star and then turning the microphone over to Keith.

“I want to thank the almighty for allowing me to be here tonight,” Keith said. “We’ve been riding shotgun for a little while.”

He thanked his “beautiful” family, his team, the “great musicians” he has worked with throughout the years, and most of all “the fans for still allowing us to do what we do.”

AUSTIN, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Toby Keith performs onstage during the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival Presented By Capital One at Frank Irwin Center on October 30, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage)

During the award show, Keith performed “Don’t Let the Old Man In” from the 2018 Clint Eastwood movie The Mule. He said his choice was based on his battle with cancer.

“Well, mainly because I’ve been going through my cancer fight for the last couple of years and it’s really inspiring for a lot of people,” he said. “And coming back on TV for the first time and performing live in front of a live audience, I thought it was fitting.”

In June, Keith shared a positive update on his cancer battle stating that his tumor had shrunk by a third and all of his blood tests looked good.

“Basically, everything is in a real positive trend.”

If you enjoyed this story, check out the story of how his wife remained by his side during his darkest moments.


We love you Toby Keith, and we can’t wait to see you healthy and back on the road!