Melissa Etheridge grew up in Leavenworth and graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1979. She started her musical career by participating in the Leavenworth Plaza Talent Contest at the age of 11, a trophy she still proudly displays today.
She recorded her album in 1990 and since then has attained world-wide celebrity status with 10 CDs selling more than 27 million copies. She has been nominated for 15 Grammies, winning two, and won an Oscar for Best Song.
She has also been at the forefront of many social issues, including breast-cancer awareness.
Melissa talked openly about her life and passions in a phone interview from her Los Angeles home with Leavenworth Times General Manager Dale Brendel. See Part 2 of the interview in Wednesday’s newspaper.
Part 1 ot a two-part series
Tell us about the projects that you are involved in now to help bring awareness to breast cancer?
Having had breast cancer six years ago I have been involved in a lot of things and I have really in the last couple of years had to narrow it down, otherwise I would be doing something for breast cancer every week. Right now I am affiliated with Hard Rock Cafe. They have something called Pinktober where they raise money and 99 percent of the money actually goes to these leading-edge researchers. Is it just me, or has breast cancer become big business now, and I am a little like whoaaa… I am really for awareness, and for women to be aware that this is happening to way too many of us – like half of us. And so maybe we need to change something here. What we’re eating, how we’re living, something’s not right. And that’s the kind of awareness I want to look to. I try to support people who are doing research in nutrition and plant remedies, Gerson therapy, which is changing your diet and juices and vitamin B. These really healthy things are what I try to bring awareness to now.
It was six years ago that you were diagnosed with breast cancer. How are you doing now and is it something you still have to battle?
I’m very healthy now. In fact, I am actually healthier now than I was before the cancer. I am one of those people that considers my cancer a gift, because it really changed my life. It made be stop and go whoaaa, what am I putting in my body. I can‘t live on coffee and Powers Bars. It changed my whole outlook on life and spirit, and mortality and fear and love, and it really set me on a spiritual journey, which has made me healthier than ever. I have no cancer, because I know that cancer is not some
thing that comes into your body, it is actually when your own cells go bad, so I have control over my body. If I keep my body healthy, and a pH balance, which is alkaline and acid in your body, and what you eat, and stress and stuff has to do with that. If I do that then my cells won‘t go bad and I won‘t get cancer. So yes, I am cured.
What is the most important thing to bring awareness to other women about breast cancer?
To not have so much fear of this, even though we are losing loved ones who are dying from it, we now have the technology to catch it so early that, if you go get your mammograms, stay up on it in self-exams, that you can find it so early and understand that, hey, it‘s your body‘s way of telling you that you are out of balance, and look at what you‘re eating, the work you’re doing, the stress you are putting on yourself, and make a change. Even my old doctor, my oncologist, who is Mr. Doctor Man, says the biggest thing you can do to not have cancer come back is to make a change in your life. Change the way you eat, change the way you live. Those people survive.
Isn‘t there evidence that cancer can by genetic?
Yeah, and understand what genetics are. Genetics does not mean you will get it or you are predetermined to get it. It means if the environment is conducive to it, if the environment is acidic, because of your genes you are MORE likely to get it. But there’s also people who have genes that don‘t ever get it because they stay out of the risk of it. We kind of have to change our thinking about cells. The cell doesn‘t have all the information in the nucleus it actually has it in the outer shell of the cell, so the environment dictates to the cell what it becomes. We have more responsibility in this.
There has been a lot of emphasis in the past few years on breast cancer awareness. Do you think we are seeing results from this. Are we seeing better rates of survival and more women catching this early?
I haven’t seen any numbers on this, so I don’t know the stats, but I know that the isolated feeling that ….six years ago when I had it, is just starting to break through that, oh my God, I am not the only one, that this is happening to a lot of people. And that you are not alone and that there is a lot of support. The awareness helps the emotional side of this, and that can’t be bad.
Other than changing your diet did getting cancer change you in other ways?
Oh yes. I had to look at my career and the music I was making, and this town, oh this town out here, Los Angeles, it’s a meat grinder and it will eat you up (laughing). I had to look at my work and take the artistry of my work and the love of my work back and not try to make hit records or, you know, have No. 1 records because I have to be on top or something. I stood back and went “wait a minute. I make music because I love it. And I need to do it ONLY because I love it, and then the people that come to hear it will be the people that love it. And that is all I want around me. I’m not in a race with anybody, and so it really affected my work a lot.
Speaking of your work, I know you released a new CD earlier this year (Fearless Love) and it is doing well. What are you working on right now. Are you working on any new projects?
I’m still kind of in the middle of the album that just got released. I just got off tour and actually right now I am carpool mom taking the kids to school and settling into that. I am not really working on anything right now. I have things I would like to do in the future. I really want to do a musical. It’s actually all kind of lined up, I just have to take the time to write it.
So your tour just finished?
Yeah, my American tour. I am going to go to Canada in February and then we’re going to go from there.
You’ve released 10 albums and sold 27 million records worldwide, how do you keep coming up with more ideas, more songs to keep inspiring you?
Hmm, well the inspiration comes from life, and my emotional connection to my every-day life. And then I mine that inspiration and write from there. And that’s the craft, and I enjoy it so much. I love it so much, it’s always there, and I am always looking for a better way to express it, and I get to examine my life, and where I am at and how I want to convey a feeling to the listener. I love what I am doing.
And that’s what fans love about your music, too, right?
And then it works. I might not be playing in stadiums, but I have people that want to come hear me play and enjoy it, and I enjoy it.
Part 2 Wednesday
Melissa discusses her thoughts about growing up in Leavenworth.