It could have been very easy for Melissa Etheridge to just ball up into a corner and shut out the world when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. But she didn’t. From About.com (1) Etheridge “underwent chemotherapy and a lumpectomy,” in 2004, at the age of 43.
Then, just when everyone had thought that Melissa Etheridge might go down as a footnote of the singer that was, she emerged victorious and bald as an eagle at the Grammy awards in 2005. In attendance because she was nominated and because she was asked to sing a song, Etheridge defied the odds and not only got out of bed, beat back that cancer, and came to the awards, but she also got up and did a Janis Joplin scream in her cover of “Piece of My Heart.” Etheridge is an inspiration to people everywhere for her absolute grittiness; truth, she calls it; but her absolute determination not to let cancer destroy her rich and full and still very much ongoing life.
Melissa Etheridge sat down with Stone Phillips from Dateline NBC (2) in February of 2005 and talked about her experience in having the cancer removed. She said, “…they found my tumor. It was a four-centimeter tumor. It’s a Stage II, very grateful. And it did go into one lymph node, into the sentinel node. They took it out. That was positive. So they moved on and took out 14 other lymph nodes which were negative. Which means that, yes, I had a tumor. It got on the ramp. But not to the rest of the superhighway of lymph nodes, which is how cancer travels. Lymph nodes and bloodstream.”
Etheridge got rid of the tumor, got onto chemotherapy, lost all her strength and all her hair and still, she came to the Grammy Awards and rocked the house.
In the ensuing years, Etheridge tells More Magazine (3) she has “…been approached by many different organizations and people [to get involved with projects]. Some were connected to drug companies or were about raising money for drug companies. They all meant well and good, but I have a specific perception about what health and cancer is, so I said no to a lot of things.”
Until she heard about “1 a Minute.” “The creator of “1 a Minute,” Namrata Singh Gujral, wanted me to speak my truths. She’s a woman who’s also been affected by breast cancer and kind of had the same reaction to it that I did, which is: “This is all we have? You’ve got to be kidding me. Something’s got to change.” That’s really what drew me to it.”
Etheridge tells More that “1 a Minute” is a film which is “a global look at the countries that are being hit by breast cancer and how, as well as the different cultural ways of responding to it – what’s being done, what can be done.”
Etheridge may not be taking the proscribed method of just sitting back and opening up her checkbook to such a global catastrophe like breast cancer. She is seeking out projects that are important, doing the work that’s important, getting people involved at the ground level, so they too can see the devastation left in this diseases wake. And she’s probably privately opening up her purse strings too. But what’s more important about Melissa Etheridge is about how she’s opened up people’s eyes to the fact that yes, she is an amazing and talented and young celebrity and yes she has money and yes she has success and yes she has cancer.
In the end all those other things add up to nothing when cancers been thrown in the mix. Everything changes.