Singing hits is one side of Sheryl Crow. Spreading her hard-won knowledge about early cancer detection is another. She’s talks about that, and more, with Rita Braver:
We are used to seeing Sheryl Crow, on stage with a guitar in her hands. But she says she’s equally at home in an examination room, demonstrating how she gets an annual mammogram, or breast X-ray, a subject that was once only whispered about.
“Women just didn’t speak about their breasts; it was so taboo,” Crow said. “Obviously we live in a different day and age, and I feel like I’m in kind of a rarefied position in that I have a very large fan base of women, and those women, they’ve got teenage girls now. It’s just great to at least stay on top of your own health.”
And she makes no bones about being a paid spokesperson for Hologic, which makes 3-D imaging machine for mammograms.
“It can be the real difference between a real harsh treatment,” she said, “or something that’s early and is ultimately a cure.”
Crow has reason to understand the importance of early detection. In 2006, she discovered that she had breast cancer.
“I had a routine mammogram,” she said. “It was a very inopportune time. It was right before the Grammys, my personal life was kind of in turmoil, and the last thing I wanted to do was go have a mammogram. But I did. And the result was, ‘Come back in six months, we’ve seen something that’s kind of suspect, but let’s keep an eye on it.’
“ And my gynecologist called and said, ‘There is no six months. You don’t wait. Let’s go and get a second opinion. Let’s get a needle biopsy.’ And it turned out it was invasive.”
Braver asked, “Can you remember the emotions that went though your mind? You’re young, and suddenly they’re telling you that you’ve got breast cancer.”
“Yeah, I do. It’s like one of those scenes in a movie where all of a sudden it’s like everything’s swirling. And she said right off the bat, ‘You’re not going to die. This is very early. We’ll do a lumpectomy and radiation, and you’ll get on with your life.’”
It was a life that Sheryl Crow had worked hard to build. Raised in Kennett, Missouri, she worked as a grade school music teacher after college. But on the side, she had a gig singing commercial jingles. “‘In-n-Out, In-n-Out, that’s what a hamburger’s all about!’ All the greats!”
But in 1986 she decided to try her luck in L.A. And it took a while -- nobody was beating down her door.
“Every label said, ‘We don’t know what to do with, you know, a blue-eyed kind of country soul singer,’” Crow said. “I was pretty much turned down by everybody.”
In 1993 she finally broke through. She had a string of hits, eventually racking up nine Grammy Awards.
To hear Sheryl Crow perform “If It Makes You Happy,” from her eponymous 1996 album, click on the video player below.
Then in 2006, at age 44, a double whammy. Not only cancer, but the end of her engagement to cyclist Lance Armstrong -- the whole saga unfolding publicly.
“You can work so long, and have big-selling records, but when your life falls apart, you become like an A-list celebrity. Suddenly there was a convergence of people interested in my private life, and that for me was such an intrusion.”
She had 33 radiation treatments: “Every morning I had the opportunity to just lay there with my arm above my head and reassess my life!” she laughed.
And when she got a clean bill of health, she decided to take her Mom’s advice, and not wait for marriage to have children. “She just said, ‘Adopt, get a surrogate. Your life doesn’t have to look like the life you were born into.’ And that’s what I did. I just thought, ‘You know what? Life’s so short.’”
She dotes on six-year-old Levi and his big brother, nine-year-old Wyatt.
But she’s also found time to launch a new line of clothing, which she’ll soon peddle on HSN. Working from her converted barn in Nashville, she’s developing pieces based on her all-American style.
“It’s a great way to get clothes out to people who can’t afford the $350 jeans,” Crow said. “I go to my hometown all the time, and that is basically Middle America. Those are the people who are more economically strapped.”
“That’s who you want these clothes to appeal to?”
“I think that’s kind of who buy my records!”
And yes, she’s also got a new record coming next month, called “Be Myself.”
The first single, which she recently performed at L.A.’s famed Troubadour, is titled “Halfway There.” She says is about urging people to listen to each other in today’s vitriolic political climate:
“It says it doesn’t matter if you’re this person and I’m that person -- don’t we all want the same thing at the end of the day?”
But along with the songs she sings, Sheryl Crow says she’ll continue to talk -- urging women to get an annual mammogram.
“I was healthy; I didn’t have any family history,” she said. “The technology is getting better and better. So, at a certain age, take it into your own hands to make sure that you are your advocate. I look at the opportunity as more of a gift than a responsibility. It’s worth being said.”
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