Sheryl Crow Says Armstrong Didn't Abandon Her When She Was Ill

ByABC News via via logo

July 6, 2006 — -- Superstar singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow has survived an almost epic bad year.

On Feb. 4, she went through a very public breakup with cyclist Lance Armstrong after two years by his side, cheering his final victories in the Tour de France. The couple got engaged in August 2005, but then suddenly, the relationship was over.

Then 2.5 weeks later, Crow, 44, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer, Crow talked about her recovery from cancer and the breakup, dismissing reports that the seven-time Tour de France champion had deserted her when he found out she was sick.

"I thought: 'Now, this is just one crummy joke,'" Crow said. "It was like, 'Wait a minute, how can this be? No, you've got the wrong person.' You know. … But yeah, that's the way it happened, you know."

On Feb. 20, Crow received a routine mammogram, and calcification showed up in both breasts. The doctor told her to come back in six months, but another doctor told her not to wait, and she went in for an immediate biopsy.

The diagnosis was cancer, and Crow had to have a lumpectomy and radiation therapy.

"I was so shocked. I mean, obviously, lots of tears," she said. "All of us were in shock. I mean, time really stood still."

She saw the diagnosis as a wake-up call.

"There were just aspects of my life I had to look at and say, 'What is this? What is this telling me?'" she said. "It's about showing up for yourself. It's about facing that giant machine every morning, being stripped down to just one little person addressing their life. And that was -- that was my wake-up call. I had to be here. I had to show up for myself."

Crow has spent her life nurturing others, friends say. She says it's simply not true that Armstrong -- fiercely disciplined, reserved, and a cancer survivor -- bailed when she got sick.

"No, it was really, I mean, really difficult, you know, just really difficult for both of us," she said. "But it's in those moments when you realize, OK. … This is my life. Your first instinct is to say, OK, I have to have my family here. I've got to rely on my doctors, and I have to surround myself with people who can really carry me through this and who can really be there emotionally for me, like really just consistently be there emotionally."

Crow said that her split with Armstrong was not about having children and not about someone else. All she would say about the end of the relationship was that there was simply a growing divide between them.

"I mean, we really loved each other a lot, and still love each other a lot," she said.

After the relationship ended, Crow said that she felt disappointed and angry, but that she hadn't held on to the anger.

"I'm not angry. I mean, honestly, I look at it, and I just know that I can't be angry at Lance for being who he is," she said. "You know, he's a great person and it's his life, too. You know, it's what -- it's about what he wants and it's about what I want. And where the two don't meet, there's definitely a, you know, a fissure."

The end of any relationship is painful, but Crow tries to remain philosophical.

"It is like a death, you know. And in many ways it's like having part of your life amputated, but you still have that phantom itch, you know, where you wake up and I'll see something and think, 'Oh, I've got to make sure Lance is hip to this band. I've got to put it on his iPod.' And then I remember, 'Oh, wait, you know, that's not my life.'"

Crow keeps memories of the relationship close -- she made two albums that were deeply influenced by her time with Armstrong. She did not, however, keep her engagement ring from him.

"Oh Lord, no, I didn't," she said. "It was beautiful and a symbol of something really, really sweet. But at that moment, it was -- also represented a lot of pain, you know, and also was quite expensive."

"And I don't know what the etiquette is with something like that," she added with a laugh.

Today Crow has few regrets. She is ready to sing again, and continue learning the lessons that life teaches each of us every day.

"I wrote a song a few years ago called 'Every Day Is a Winding Road,'" she said.

"People go through challenging moments of losing people and of having their life threatened from illness and real grief. But they get through it. And that's the testament to the human spirit and it's -- we're fragile, but we also are divine."

Watch Part 2 of the exclusive interview with Sheryl Crow Friday on "Good Morning America."

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