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Musician fights leukemia, and wins

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

Barenaked Ladies' Kevin Hearn

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Barenaked Ladies

(CNN) -- In 1998, Barenaked Ladies hit it big with the catchy pop tune "One Week." But as the song climbed the charts, the band's keyboardist, Kevin Hearn, was fighting for his life.

The symptoms had started the year before. First was the cough that wouldn't go away. It was followed by a loss of appetite, fatigue and bloody noses. "That's when I went crazy," Hearn said. "I never get bloody noses."

Hearn went in for a checkup, and when the results came back, his doctor gave him the first hint there could be a serious problem. As Hearn recalls, "She came back and said, 'I want to send you to a specialist to have an ultrasound. If you can call a family member, that will be a good idea.'" That was the day Hearn found out he had leukemia.

"When I heard it was a form of cancer, I started to worry and I was in denial," Hearn says. "I asked the doctor when [could] I go back to work. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'You might not go back to work. You might not be alive in five months.' I broke down and cried."

According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, leukemia is a malignant cancer of the bone marrow and blood.

After another battery of tests, Hearn's doctors felt his best chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately for Hearn, his 27-year-old brother, Shawn, was a tissue match.

Hearn remembers the day of the transplant. "We held hands and it took about an hour and a half for his blood to enter my system. His blood cells that carry the immune system found their way into my body."

The same day, Hearn got support and good news from his bandmates about their new single, "One Week."

"It turns out that while I was in the hospital, the song went to number one," Hearn says. "All in the same day, my transplant, the song, it was pretty intense. The guys called me on the phone and sang, 'Happy transplant to you.'"

Today, Hearn says he's on the road to recovery and back with the band. He's also released a solo album of songs called "H-Wing," which was written while he was in the hospital. He's become vocal in raising awareness of leukemia.

"When I was sick, it was important for me to have someone to look [at] for inspiration, such as Jose Carreras who went through a bone marrow transplant," says Hearn. "If I can be that for anybody else, then I am happy."

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