While I’m excited to celebrate my birthday in Las Vegas in three weeks, when I head to Chicago on October 10th to fly out the next day, I’ll be having my annual physical. As I get closer to a milestone (yes, it’s still a couple of years away) birthday, I think more and more of my family’s medical history.
I’ve always said that if heredity really does play a role in your health (and I believe it does), then my sister, Tammy, could be doomed to die from a heart attack since our mother died from one in 1990 and her mother, Reba, died of a heart attack in 1963. While I hope it isn’t an omen to her mortality, my sister had a heart attack last December and stents put in her heart the December before that!
This is Tammy and my mother, Dessie, on my mother’s birthday in 1986.
Being a sexually active gay man and being blessed with youth in the past, my biggest concern was not cancer, but HIV. Luckily, that test has always been negative. Now, as I approach 50, there I said it, I’m thinking more and more about the c-word.
Back in 1999, I had a biopsy done on a mole on my arm, but it wasn’t cancer. And, about ten years ago, I had to have an ultrasound after my doctor found an abnormal testicular lump that, luckily, turned out to be a calcification and not cancer. I know, TMI. But, FYI, the chances of a man getting testicular cancer is about 1 in 270. It’s the most common cancer in males aged 20–39 years, but it has an almost 100% cure rate if caught before it spreads.
My grandfather, John Henry, the greatest man I’ve ever known, succumbed to colon cancer at the age of 72 in 1978. Here are my grandparents, Helen and John at his last Christmas in 1977.
My father, Hollie, died of brain cancer on Valentine’s Day 1987. He was 55.
While I mentioned before that I think more of cancer as I near my physical, the real reason I was inspired to blog about it today is that I just learned that one of my favorite country singers from the mid-to-late-1990s was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer last December at the age of 42.
Wade Hayes, who moved to Nashville from Oklahoma in the early-1990s, wanted to be a guitarist and harmony singer. However, Columbia Records signed him to a contract and his first song, “Old Enough To Know Better” topped the country chart in 1995. I remember taking several buses in Chicago to get to to suburban Best Buy to buy the CD of the same name.
He followed that up with four more top ten songs, “I’m Still Dancing With You” (#4, 1995), “Don’t Stop” (#10, 1995), “What I Meant To Say” (#5, 1996), and “On A Good Night” (#2, 1996). He had other Top 40 country hits and would score one more top ten, 1997’s “The Day She Left Tulsa (In A Chevy), which peaked at #5. His final Top 40 hit was “How Do Sleep At Night”, which reached #13 in 1998. Sadly, radio stopped playing his music and one of my favorite of his, “Up North (Down South, Back East, Out West)” only reached #48 in 2000.
Opening up about his fight with cancer, Wade tells Billboard Magazine, “I was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. Stage four means it had become mobile and had spread throughout my body. When we found out how far the disease had spread, the initial diagnosis was that I had a one in sixteen chance of survival.”
Doctors performed surgery in December 2011 and began an aggressive treatment program. The last tumors were removed in March 2012. Hayes adds, “It was nothing short of a miracle. I thank God everyday that he saw fit to keep me around. Through a great team of surgeons at Vanderbilt in Nashville, they were able to get all of the cancer, which they had never considered going in. I heard they were high-fiving each other when they got done. It was a long surgery, and it was tough on me. But, I am currently cancer free. Obviously, it takes a long time to get over that, and there are a lot of secondary things and issues you have to deal with when you have cancer that severe.”
He knows that he’s not out of the woods, “The one fear that we have now is it coming back. Once it spreads, there is always the chance of it coming back, so we’re trying to combat it through diet and keeping a close eye on it.”
While touring as a guitarist for Alabama’s lead singer, Randy Owen, Wade ignored the bleeding thinking it was a hemorrhoid from weightlifting. He thought the fatigue was from extensive touring. It wasn’t until he was in so much pain after his intestine collapsed in on itself that he was hospitalized over Thanksgiving 2011 for tests.
As anyone who has fought cancer and won will tell you, early detection is vital and Wade agrees, “The key to it is catching the disease early. Colon Cancer is one of the leading killers in the United States for men and women, but it’s also one of the most treatable if you catch it early enough. I ignored my symptoms, and just attributed them to something else until it was too late. I certainly don’t want that to happen to someone else. That’s the reason for recording and releasing this song – to raise awareness, and try to get people to get tested earlier than I did.”
In honor of Wade’s courageous fight, here are my favorite songs of his and the new one, “Is It Already Time”. Wade, may you have a speedy recovery and thank you for opening up and sharing your story.
This is one my favorite Wade Hayes songs and although no video was released, I still wanted to share it with you.
And, here is the new song about the cancer fight that is available at itunes and amazon.