Soul Singer Sharon Jones: ‘The Cancer Is Here, But I Want To Perform’
Submitted by Ilyse Streim, Massage Therapist, Center for Integrative Medicine, Good Samaritan Medical Center

blog1Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings kick off their delayed 2014 tour at the Beacon Theater in New York. (Photo byJacob Blickenstaff/Starz Digital)

In this interview with Terry Gross, Sharon Jones, talks about her journey through cancer and her inspiring come back to the stage during cancer treatment.

July 28, 2016

Heard on NPR’s Fresh Air

Growing up in South Carolina, soul singer Sharon Jones knew from the first time she sang in her church’s Christmas play that she would be a musician.

“I was, like, maybe 8, 9 years old … and I got to sing ‘Silent Night,'” she tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross. Jones remembers audience members taking note of her performance. “Right then and there,” she says, “I knew that I was going to be a singer. God had blessed me with a gift.”

Now the lead singer for the soul group, The Dap-Kings, Jones is inspired by the classic soul and R&B she grew up with. The band, which recorded its first album in 2001, is known for its energetic showmanship and ’60s-style soul revue shows.

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In 2013, Jones was forced to take a hiatus from performing after she was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer. A new documentary, Miss Sharon Jones!, by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, follows Jones in the first seven months following her diagnosis.

Jones says that while extensive surgery and chemotherapy took a lot out of her, her desire to make music never faltered. After finishing chemo, recovering from the surgery and getting clean scans, she returned to the stage with The Dap-Kings in 2014.

The cancer has since returned, but Jones wants to continue making music. “This cancer is here, and I have to take the chemo,” she says, “but I want to perform. I just want to be able to get onstage and move.”

Interview Highlights

On not listening to music while she was too ill

I didn’t. I didn’t. Because I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t get air because, people didn’t realize, I was cut across the diaphragm, all the way up from right under the center under my breasts, all the way down to the top of my navel, almost. They had to cut through the diaphragm, through the stomach, remove stuff. They removed like 10 pounds of things … 10 pounds that I never gained back.

On when she realized that she would eventually get back onstage

I had a February date, and my goal was to be back at that date…there’s a scene with the church, that was my first time even attempting to sing after months. And that’s when I knew, from the church scene, that I was ready. I was going to be ready for February. I knew I was going to have the strength. I knew that sickness wasn’t unto death.

I thought I was going to die maybe a couple of hours after the doctor hit me with everything. You know, you go through that. So for a couple of hours I was on my deathbed. But other than that, I overcame that. Doing the film was also my therapy, and I knew that it would help someone out there with cancer, or going through it, as long as I inspired someone. That’s where my health came from, my energy came from, knowing my fans were out there and I’m getting back to them, and I wanted them to see what I’m going through.

On getting back onstage the first time after her treatment for pancreatic cancer

The night I went out there, it was a different Sharon, because the hair is gone. That energy, I mean, everyone said my energy was great, but I didn’t feel it at all. Even now, the days on the stage I’m just not myself, I don’t have that energy. The legs doesn’t lift up like I want to with the pain, the neuropathy from certain chemo. It’s a hinder, but I do the shows, but it’s not the same.

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Sharon Jones’ story inspires me personally and professionally. As a massage therapist here at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan, I witness the overwhelming difficulty of cancer treatment for my clients living with cancer.  But every week I also love hearing how my clients visit family, care for their children, create art, garden, play music, and enjoy nature.

Our Integrative staff is specially trained to work with cancer patients to help ease the symptoms that result from cancer treatment, to help people live their lives, right through treatment. “Integrative oncology” is a growing frontier in patient care and major cancer centers such as Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York offer integrative medicine services which “enable conventional treatments to remain relentless on the malignancy but as gentle as possible on the patient. Often, that involves acupuncture, massage, yoga and even some lesser known practices, such as music therapy and the feather touch of reiki…today doctors not only give nodding acceptance to complementary care but outright encouragement”. *

Because nausea, fatigue, and chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy are some of the most common reasons that patients stop treatment early, therapies such as massage and acupuncture are important complementary adjuncts that can help a patient stay on track with treatment which is subsequently more comfortable and tolerable.

Our comprehensive cancer support services include:

Acupuncture

Oncology massage

Healing Touch

Therapeutic yoga

Nutritional consultation

Stress management

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

To listen to the Fresh Air interview of Sharon Jones with Terry Gross, go to: http://www.npr.org/2016/07/28/487707877/soul-singer-sharon-jones-the-cancer-is-here-but-i-want-to-perform

*CURE magazine, Laura Beil, http://www.curetoday.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/article.show/id/2/article_id/2307

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