STONE PHILLIPS INTERVIEWS MELISSA ETHERIDGE -- SUNDAY, FEB. 20
IN A "DATELINE NBC" EXCLUSIVE, STONE PHILLIPS SITS DOWN WITH MELISSA ETHERIDGE FOR HER FIRST INTERVIEW SINCE HER BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS � SUNDAY, FEB. 20
Etheridge Talks Candidly About Her Illness and Her Courageous Public Comeback
(New York, N.Y.) � Friday, Feb. 18 � In a "Dateline NBC" exclusive, Stone Phillips sits down exclusively with rock musician Melissa Etheridge in her first interview since her breast cancer diagnosis in October 2004. Etheridge talks candidly about her illness, how difficult her treatment was, and how and why she decided to make such a courageous public comeback at last week's Grammy Awards. The interview will be broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 20 (7:00 PM, ET) on "Dateline NBC."
It was during the Canadian leg of her most recent tour that Etheridge discovered a lump in her breast. As she tells Phillips: "It was...rather large. And I didn't know why I hadn't noticed it the day before. But it was just this day that it was right here and very noticeable. And I touched it, and... there's something in your soul. You're like, 'This is different.'"
In the candid and emotionally charged interview, Etheridge reveals chemotherapy was the most difficult experience she's ever been through: "It's the closest to death I have ever been." She tells Phillips she was scheduled to have eight chemotherapy sessions, but decided to stop after her fifth session � her first with the drug Taxol: "There's a chance of neuropathy with Taxol, which is where you lose feeling in your extremities. You know, fingers and toes. And the minute I started losing feeling in my fingertips I threw a flag and went, 'Wait wait wait wait wait. This is my livelihood you're talking about.'" But Etheridge, who is still undergoing radiation therapy, says she is now cancer-free, and forever changed. "I've changed my lifestyle. I have taken every-- what I consider poisonous thing, out of my life. Out of my food, out of my work, out of my social circle. Out of everything. Because I want a clean, cancer-free life. And I believe I can have that...Even as a rock star."
Etheridge was nominated for a Grammy Award this year, but was not expecting to perform. She tells Phillips, "When I stopped the chemotherapy at the fifth treatment, I knew that I would just be getting better then. And thought, 'You know what? There's a chance I might be able to go to the Grammys... But I didn't want to just go. I thought, 'You know, I'd like to go if there's something special.' Well, my manager...calls me and said, 'They're giving Janis Joplin the Lifetime Achievement award. And they would like you to sing 'Piece of my Heart.' And I went, 'Holy cow. Well, yeah, that's special.'"
Etheridge explains that during her inspiring performance, "I felt great. I felt loved. I felt honored. I felt strong. I felt happy. I was in the place that I loved." The response to her bold decision to appear bald has been overwhelmingly positive. Etheridge says it never occurred to her to try to hide her hair loss: "You know what? When I came out, when I walked that walk...I just followed the truth. And I'm gonna follow the truth this time, too. I'm just gonna walk. And I'm not gonna be afraid of the truth. The truth is, yes, I had cancer. Yes, I got it outta me. Yes, I went through chemotherapy. Yes, I'm bald. Yes, I'm still walking. And it's the truth...I have never known such love, and good energy that is coming to me every day. Every moment. Right now."
David Corvo is the executive producer of "Dateline NBC."