Cancer Survivor Melissa Etheridge Now Takes This Every Day to Stay Healthy
Here's what she's learned from her breast cancer diagnosis.
In the late '80s, Melissa Etheridge emerged as a powerful new voice in the world of rock 'n roll. By the '90s, she was taking over the airwaves with hits like Come to My Window and I'm the Only One, earning her two Grammy Awards, one Academy Award, a GLAAD Award, and more. But in 2004, the rocker was diagnosed with breast cancer, threatening to cut her ambitious career and her life short. Etheridge underwent a grueling course of chemotherapy treatment and triumphantly returned to the Grammy stage in 2005 to give the performance of a lifetime. Today, Etheridge says her experience with breast cancer has completely transformed her as a person—including her health habits. Read on to learn the one thing that the singer now takes every day to stay healthy, and how her diagnosis changed her.
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Etheridge now takes a spoonful of apple cider vinegar every day.
Etheridge says that having breast cancer shifted her focus toward a healthier diet, and she credits this change for her newfound vitality. "I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life," she told ABC News in 2015. "It excites me every day when I can wake up and feel energy and feel good and feel purpose. The changes I made were big and not easy." Speaking with Shape Magazine in 2009, she noted that she had eliminated refined sugar from her diet and turned toward plant-based sources of nutrition. "It's not about eating blandly or unimaginatively, but being aware of the food going into your body—where it comes from, what's been done to it."
As part of her new health regimen, the singer also said that takes at least one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each day. "It's an old wives' tale, but it really is one of the best things you can put in your mouth," she told Shape.
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She gave an iconic performance after her chemo treatment.
In 2005, shortly after undergoing weeks of chemotherapy to treat her breast cancer, Etheridge performed at the Grammy Awards Show, baring her newly bald head for the world to see. She now says it was one of the most transformative musical moments of her career.
"Right after I finished chemo I got up in front of the world and sang a tribute to Janis Joplin at the Grammys. That musical experience changed my life. I found the energy to get up and say, this is what I'm supposed to do, I'm a rock 'n' roll artist, and here I am, singing. That gave me courage," she told Shape.
Asked whether she considered wearing a wig for the performance, Etheridge said it had certainly been suggested to her. However, the artist recalls, "I've never been the type to not be who I am, to not be truthful. I've always been upfront. So I said, why should I hide my truth? I had cancer. I had chemotherapy. I lost my hair. There's no shame in that."
Having cancer changed the rock star in a spiritual way.
Though surviving cancer is a battle of the body, Etheridge says it also sparked a transformation of her mind and soul. "I was lying there in chemo. I couldn't move because it was painful. I couldn't listen to anything. I couldn't have any lights on," the singer told Shape. "After weeks and weeks, I ran out of things to think about. That's when the chatter in my mind stopped and I realized that my body didn't define me. It was what was inside and around it, this amazing spirit, this soul, that did."
This turned out to be a powerful revelation for Etheridge. "When you really comprehend that, everything starts to make sense. Our society, where we are right now, our minds are junkyards. We watch TV and sit on the computer all day and barely have an original thought. We need to get back to that clarity. Our thoughts are all-powerful," she said.
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She says having cancer offered her a "blank slate."
Having begun performing as a child, Etheridge says she has been on "a path of high stress" for as long as she can remember. "My career—it was a big old juicy carrot right in front of me for all of my life. I started playing in bars when I was eleven. And I never stopped. Until I was 43 years old, and diagnosed with breast cancer was the first time I canceled everything, and laid in my room for weeks," she told NBC News in 2005.
The rock legend described having cancer as "the ultimate excuse," finally giving her the opportunity to step off the fast track, guilt-free. The everyday stresses of her demanding career gave way to the greater worry of acknowledging her own mortality. "I mean, it's like you just blow up. It's the most stressful thing ever. 'Oh, my God. I might die.' Phew," she said.
Since her recovery, the singer says she has a healthier sense of balance. "My life became very simple. And it cleared up. And I had a completely blank slate and I can build it now the way I want to," she said.
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