Sheryl Crow: “Breast Cancer Has Informed My Life in Every Possible Way”
“I was the last person I would’ve thought would get diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Sheryl Crow over the phone recently from her home in Nashville, Tenn. Though now, the country singer and 10-year survivor has arguably become just as well-known for her hit songs—“If It Makes You Happy” and “Everyday Is a Winding Road”—as her efforts publicly combating the disease that claims over 40,000 lives each year.
This month, Crow is going one step further and partnering with eBay for Charity to auction off items from her closet, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the charitable organization Stand Up to Cancer. Below, she talks more about her personal journey and the two new albums she has on deck.
You’ve been a breast cancer survivor for 10 years now. What has struck you the most?
The experience has informed my life in every possible way. Up until the point I was diagnosed, I was a person who made it my mission to please everyone. Then when I got breast cancer, I learned how to say no and listen to my instincts. If I didn’t want to do something, why force myself to do it because it would mean something to someone else? It may sound selfish, but it’s been a real lifesaver. My life choices in general have been a direct result of having this illness.
Well, it made me want to start a family. I had a picture in my head of what family was supposed to look like, but I didn’t take into account that I’ve had a nice life—I’ve been all over the world; I’ve played music for people who don’t even speak my language. So after I completed my treatment, I decided to quit limiting my life to the story of “you fall in love, you get married, you have kids” and start the adoption process.
A sampling of Crow's pieces up for auction.
Has your fight against cancer influenced your music?
I think life in general informs your art. Everything that I write about is from the perspective of someone who’s on the other side of looking at mortality. And at the same time, it has also redefined my relationship with my work. My work means far less than it did because I’m not as attached to it. And because of that, I really enjoy it more. I really only do it when I feel like doing it.
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Speaking of, when can we expect a new record?
Soon! I finished two records. One is collaborative; it’s based on working with people that I’ve known through the years who have been inspirations to me. I’ve got a song with Stevie Nicks; I did one of my favorite songs by Keith Richards—“The Worst”—with Keith Richards; I wrote a song for Willie Nelson. The other one is a Sheryl Crow record much like the second, third, or fourth one.
What is the single most important thing you’ve learned about breast cancer?
The importance of early detection. Until we have a cure, it’s our best weapon and it gives us the best statistics for survival. I also always encourage women over the age of 40 to start the mammogram process—there’s nothing to be afraid of. Knowledge provides power. It’s important to be proactive about your health.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.