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Melissa Etheridge Talks About Breast Cancer

ByABC News via logo
October 19, 2005, 7:27 AM

Oct. 19, 2005 — -- Two-time Grammy winner Melissa Etheridge is closing one chapter of her life and beginning another -- stronger, better and more passionate about life than ever before. Etheridge waged a tough battle against breast cancer and won. And she's just released a greatest hits CD, "The Road Less Traveled."

Etheridge thrilled fans this morning in Times Square when she performed as part of "Good Morning America's" Women Rule Concert Series. She sang her classic hit "Come to My Window." She also performed a new song dedicated to breast cancer survivors called "I Run for Life." She will donate all of her record royalties from that song to breast cancer charities.

"Our society doesn't say the word cancer much," said Etheridge. When her grandmother was dying from breast cancer, no one even told Etheridge what was wrong, she said.

One day during her tour last October, Etheridge discovered a lump in her breast. She flew home to California, where she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

"It was a rather large tumor, but had only contaminated one lymph node," she said.

A wonderful ultrasound technician helped Etheridge get through the initial diagnosis.

"She was a five-year survivor who had a full mastectomy," Etheridge said, "and she opened her blouse and said, 'this is the worst that can happen.' "

Etheridge had a lumpectomy, but the surgeons also had to remove all 15 lymph nodes to make sure the cancer hadn't spread. She then went through five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

At this year's Grammy Awards, Etheridge gave a show-stopping performance when she sang Janis Joplin's "Piece of my Heart." It was her first time on stage since cancer and the first time people had seen her since she lost her hair from chemo. But Etheridge wasn't worried -- her only concern was that the lighting guys knew she was bald in case they had to adjust the lighting for it.

Etheridge sang her heart out, and was very touched by the overwhelming response of the 20,000 people in the audience.

"Grammy audiences are not known for their warmth," she said.

"Every day someone comes up to me and says something about that performance," she added.

She said that this was her public comeback.

"When people hear you have breast cancer, they tend to to write you off," she said.

Now that she is cancer-free, Etheridge offered advice to others on staying healthy.

"Nutrition, nutrition," she said. "Eat your fruits and vegetables."