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Sheryl Crow: Cancer changed my music

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(CNN) -- In 2006, rock singer Sheryl Crow underwent minimally invasive surgery for breast cancer.

Sheryl received an excellent prognosis from doctors and is now trying to raise awareness about the disease and the need for early detection, which she thinks made a big difference in her case.

In October, CNN.com invited readers to send their questions to Sheryl Crow about her battle with breast cancer.

Sheryl answers your questions below.

QUESTION: Hope you are feeling OK. I am just beginning my chemo. How did you feel after your first chemo? And then on a day-to-day basis?
Katie Smith, Upper Marlboro, Maryland

CROW: Dear Katie, I was so lucky. My cancer was caught early enough that I did not have to undergo chemo. I had a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation. I have met many cancer patients who have or are going through chemo and it seems to vary with each patient and what their individual treatment is. Hang in there.

Q: I would like to know if you used a holistic approach in addition to your medical treatment. Reason I ask is because I hear so much of holistic modalities being part of recoveries, but I am not yet convinced that they work. I wish you the best and my prayers are with you and all women battling the cancer nightmare.
Pauline Elvidge, Georgetown, Massachusetts

CROW: Dear Pauline, I remember when I was first diagnosed and I was deep into doing research on what it meant to have cancer and what I could expect from my treatment. I called a great friend who is one of the top guys at the Lance Armstrong Foundation and asked what he thought about seeking holistic treatment in conjunction with my radiation. His response was, "If your doctor isn't open to that, then you have the wrong doc." In fact, it was my surgical oncologist who recommended I check out the Tao of Wellness, where I supported my treatment with acupuncture as well as herbal teas. The idea is to fortify the immune system. I say why not?

Q: Hello Sheryl. I was also diagnosed with breast cancer at age 47 but I had the "works" -- surgery (mastectomy), chemo, then radiation. I was wondering what type of treatment you had and what stage was the cancer? I had stage III-A. I see you still have all of your hair! Hope you are doing well. From one of your "sisters" in Louisiana.
Judy, Denham, Louisiana

CROW: Hi Judy, I hope you are doing well. You sound like you have the best attitude! Yes, I was so blessed that my cancer was caught in the earliest of stages by way of my yearly mammogram. I underwent a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation. I am a walking advertisement for early detection.

Hope you are somewhere out of the flooding of Louisiana! I love it there!

Q: I am wondering if there was any history of breast cancer in the women in your family or did this totally come at you out of the blue? I am faithful to get mammograms every year, but I am always so nervous about the results. My mom has had breast cancer so it makes me even more afraid of being diagnosed myself. Stay strong and positive.
Leslie Eberwein, Rolling Meadows, Illinois

CROW: Well, Leslie, the only cancer in my family was colon cancer in 3 of my maternal great uncles and my mother's half-sister died young of breast cancer. Although my oncologist didn't think that was a strong tie, my message to all is to get your yearly mammograms and know your family history.

Q: Hi Sheryl. What can I say to a friend who has just learned that her breast cancer has returned? I know she must be terrified....
Corinne, Jackson, New Jersey

CROW: Hi Corinne, I think encouragement always goes a long way. I found that when I was going through my treatment that I only wanted those around me who were positive and uplifting. There are so many incredible stories of recovery out there and the treatments are getting better and better. Its is so scary, especially for someone who has already been through it once, but having the positive support of loved ones is invaluable.

Q: Can you comment on how the United States or individual states can do more to provide early detection services to people who cannot afford mammograms or other preventive services? Thank you and I hope you are feeling well. Keep making music!
Maureen Grady, Williamsburg, Virginia

CROW: Hi Maureen, That is a great question. My treatment was upwards of $150,000 and that was with no chemo. I became so focused on what women who are low-income or uninsured do for treatment that I have been doing research on all of the places where a woman can get a free mammogram. Those places exist and soon I hope to have a list on my Web site.

Q: I'm also a breast cancer survivor. I know that you know all too well that's a diagnosis no one wants to receive. I'm just wondering about your treatment. Was it surgery and chemo or surgery and radiation? For me, in addition to the traditional methods, I also sought much needed strength from my religious faith, which I believe makes all the difference. What do you think?
Michele Campbell, Washington, D.C.

CROW: Hi Michele, I'm so glad to hear you are doing well. I have stage one ductal carcinoma in situ cancer. I had a lumpectomy and radiation. I think faith is so important. Being diagnosed with a possibly life-threatening disease is so jarring and for me to know that God had me in his hands, I never felt alone.

Q: I was diagnosed with breast cancer about one year ago. I went through aggressive chemo and radiation. So far so good. However, I seem to have daily thoughts about getting cancer back. How can I overcome these thoughts and try to live a happy life?
Nancy Lyon, Whitehall, Wisconsin

CROW: Dear Nancy, I so hear you! It crosses my mind every day that perhaps I got off too easy and that somewhere in my body is a radical cancer cell. I think the important thing is to understand that having those thoughts is going to be a part of living for a while. But, the objective is to go for it in life....move forward with normal life and try to stop and recognize that happiness exists inside of you every day...to really recognize it and celebrate it.

Q: Looking back, do you feel that you had any symptoms that you could attribute to the cancer, but at the time either ignored or overlooked?
Chase, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

CROW: Hi Chase, I have very dense breasts. I have never been able to find anything in my self-examinations so I have always relied on my yearly mammograms to tell me what's going on. I had calcifications turn up in both breasts and in both breasts, the calcifications looked to be forming what looked like to be suspicious patterns. When the radiologist suggested I come back in six months to look at the calcifications, it was my ob-gyn who suggested I not wait but go ahead and be biopsied.

Because I had no signs or symptoms, I feel compelled to encourage women to know your family history and to make sure and get yearly mammograms, particularly if you have dense breasts.

Q: After undergoing all of your treatments and thru the initial diagnosis, what would you say is the biggest change you've found within yourself and how has it affected your outlook on life?
Barb Brennan, Victoria, British Columbia

CROW: A lot of breast cancer survivors I've spoken to attest to having a similar experience. The idea that metaphysically the breasts represent nourishment and that there is a connection with breast disease and a lack of nourishment, whether it be allowing others to nourish or lack of self-nourishment, is one that strikes me. For me, it was a time of awakening to the idea that perhaps I had not allowed other people to take care of me but instead had always put everyone else and their needs before me and my needs. It is a trap a lot of women fall into because by nature we are nurturing beings. Now, I am conscious of checking in with myself to make sure I am doing only things I want to be doing and not worrying about everyone else. A big change for me!

Q: What is the best thing that you can say or do to help someone go through his or her ordeal with cancer? My mom has breast cancer. Sometimes I feel like if I try too hard to be there for her I would be smothering her or making it seem like I think we don't have that much time together. In the back of my mind I want to make the best of whatever we have left together, be it 5 or 40 years. I just don't want to make it uncomfortable.
Steven Sampson, Douglasville, Georgia

CROW: Hi Steven, That is such a good question. I think for me it was just comforting having people who love me nearby. It is difficult to understand the experience unless you are going through it yourself, but to be there, available to listen, to talk, to just sit, to be in the next room, to cook, to do little things, etc., is invaluable. I think what most people going through illness want is to feel that life is as normal as possible, at least that was my experience, and to know that when you want your loved ones there, that they are there, and when you need space that they understand but will be nearby.

I think it is as hard for those in the support position as it is for those going through the treatment. You feel helpless and scared. Hang in there....

Q: My friend was diagnosed with breast cancer in April. Since then, she's undergone two surgeries and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment. She's a very independent woman and I believe it is challenging for her to be in a situation where we all want to help her. How do you suggest we support her without overdoing it or "babying" her too much?
Rebecca, Sparks, Nevada

CROW: Hi Rebecca, Steven just asked a similar question. Hopefully, it will be helpful to you.

Q: I can only imagine what a diagnosis of breast cancer does to one's emotional state and I hope that your recovery will be complete and that you will have no recurrences. I wanted to ask you how having cancer has impacted your choices for your future, personally and professionally. Have you reached that stage of enlightenment that we should do the most with the time we've been given? Please accept my best wishes for continued good health.
Diane Sambor, Antwerp, Belgium

CROW: Hi Diane, I do feel there was a colossal shift in my life when I was diagnosed. My situation was interesting in that I was also going through a lot of personal upheaval and the experience really dictated that I show up for myself in ways I had never done before. I am a person who typically tries to take care of everyone, needs to be right with the world, etc. It is my nature and it is not a particularly healthy way to live because at the end of the day, you wind up at the bottom of your list of those you take care of.

I am very conscious now of only doing the things I want to be doing. I am aware of the fact that sometimes no is the answer, no matter how hard it is to say. And, I guess the biggie for me is knowing that it will never be my goal to prove to anyone that I matter.

These are big concepts for me but I am compelled to let these new ideas inform the way I live from here on.

Q: Your life being in the spotlight, as it is, how do you deal with such a personal thing? Do you have an inner circle of friends and family that you fall back on for support? Finally do you think your experiences you've had with your illness will influence your songs?
Steve Morris, Florence, South Carolina

CROW: Hi Steve, Man, I had the most wonderful support around me at all times. My mom and dad were with me as well as my brother and two sisters and their families. Everyone took shifts coming out to LA to be with me. I also had my longtime college girlfriend, my manager, and a wonderful flock of women here in LA around me. I was very comforted. My mom made 12 different kinds of soup and my girlfriends took me to radiation. It was, overall, a very heartwarming experience.

I think everything about what I went through physically and emotionally will definitely, for better or worse, wind up on my next record. Yikes!! May not be a light pop album!

Q: I recently read your interview in Vanity Fair and was so impressed by your integrity and stamina. I just read a report yesterday that stress has been linked to ovarian cancer but there have been no causal links demonstrated between breast cancer and stress to date. Do you feel that stress may have contributed to your development of stage one breast cancer? I would also like to ask, do you think there is enough being done regarding awareness of cancer, breast cancer in particular, and what more would you like to see done (i.e. programs, educational efforts)?
Catherine, New York, New York

CROW: Hi Catherine, I have to believe that stress is not good, period. There is a pretty goofy movie called, "What the Bleep Do We Know," and it talks about the fact that the cells operate at their fullest capability when we are relaxed and positive...that the cells actually change shape when we are stressed. It is my belief that disease is a breakdown in physiology and what has to be determined is, if we all walk around with cancer cells, it is at which point that the cells begin to change shapes or start to form patterns that really matters. What is causing our immune system to stop working at its highest potential? What is causing the cells to mutate, to multiply, etc.?

I think there are amazingly great advances being made in cancer research. I've met so many amazing doctors who are impassioned and convicted about finding a cure. Just the advances that have been made in the last few years regarding gene research as well as effective treatment are encouraging. We are past the time when the mastectomy is the only solution. It has only been in the last 20 years that lumpectomy and radiation/chemo became a viable option to having the entire breast removed.

Q: What are your thoughts about treating cancer holistically? Organic foods/diet? Did you use any of these alternative means to improve your health and rid your body of the cancer?
Nick Giammusso, Williamsville, New York

CROW: Hi Nick, I believe anything that can be used to support the immune system is valuable. I went to a wonderful Chinese doctor at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and received acupuncture as well as herbs. I also met with a nutritionist who specializes in wellness. I completely changed the way I eat. I am very conscious about what I put into my body. I eat all organic, clean food, a lot of fish, colorful vegetables, etc.



Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow supplemented her cancer treatment with acupuncture and herbal teas.

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