Melissa Etheridge: Kids ‘Were Calm’ About My Cancer Diagnosis

10/04/2010 at 08:00 AM ET
Paul Morigi/FilmMagic

When Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she didn’t hide anything from her kids.

“They were 6 and 8 at the time,” she recalls. “Tammy and I said that my tumor was like a lump with a cold in it, that the cold had spread to my body, and that we needed to take it out, and take some medicine.”

Explaining her disease in terms Bailey Jean and Beckett (now 13 and 11) understood made things easier, she says. “I didn’t say anything frightening, like ‘I might die!’ ” she shares. “But I wanted to let them know the seriousness of it, too. They were calm about it.”

Now completely cancer-free, and mom to two more children, twins Miller Steven and Johnnie Rose, who turn 4 this month, Etheridge is feeling great — and sharing her message of survival with people around the country on Wednesday night through the documentary 1 a Minute.

“I was struck by the woman behind the film,” Etheridge says of director Namrata Singh Gujral. “She was a Bollywood actress who was diagnosed with cancer, and had such a societal experience with it. But she dedicated herself to going around the world and showing how each culture deals with breast cancer, and what’s going on with this epidemic. I just thought, ‘That’s worthy of my time. That’s something I want to be involved with.'”

Courtesy 1 a Minute

The feature-length film, which also stars breast cancer survivors Olivia Newton-John, Jaclyn Smith and Diahann Carroll, will air one night only, Oct. 6, in theaters around the United States.

“It’s very powerful,” Etheridge says. “I never expected to become a face for breast cancer. Now that I’m outside, away from it, and healthier than I’ve ever been, I try to show people the positive side of it. Yeah, there’s a horribleness to it for minutes, but there are things we can do to change.”

She also credits her children for being there when she needed them most.

“I remember after it was done, we celebrated my ‘cancer-free day’,” she recalls.

“My then-8-year-old looked at me and asked, ‘What would happen if you weren’t [cancer free]?’ And I was like, ‘That would’ve been a real bummer!’ My kids are the greatest joy of my life. And to see the bond between the twins … it’s very heartwarming.”

Click here to read more about 1 a Minute, in theaters this Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Share this story:

Your reaction:

Add A Comment

PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 13 comments

Norma on

Im really not trying to be rude here…cancer is a very serious deadly disease…and while im happy Melissa is healthy…just seems odd with all the bad press on her recently…this would come out now…*shrugs* I suppose….

Niki on

Norma- I honestly thought the same thing when I read it. Then I felt really guilty. haha. But you are right, its a very interesting time for her to be all of a sudden talking about this project. You would think it would have been mentioned this whole time…

Hannah on

It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Jennifer on

@ Norma and Niki,
what kind of bad press?
About the splitting of her and her former partner? I didn’t realizes that there is bad press about her, at least not here in Germany.

Bugs on

I’m confused. What bad press are some of you talking about?

Cynthia on

The only bad press was created by her ex who told some fibs about Melissa not financially supporting her and the twins. Soon after the court papers were released showing that Melissa was paying all of Tammy’s bills plus gave her half of everything so the story went away once the press realized it was just a bitter ex trying to make her look bad. The breast cancer thing is coming up now because October is breast cancer month and Melissa is the ambassador of Pinktober, a big breast cancer awareness organization that raises funds for breast cancer research organizations.

Hea on

Bad press??

Bancie1031 on

Does anyone know where I can find a picture of Melissa’s children? I love their names btw :D

Jacqui on

Cynthia, You have no way of knowing what was said was a “fib” unless you are a close personal friend or family to Melissa and her ex.

I actually found myself believing what Melissa’s ex said about her was true. I didn’t want to believe it, but it just sounded credible. It has made me think differently of Melissa.

Jacqui on

To clarify, the accusations were not just about financial matters. There was more to it.

Hea on

Jacqui – Can you please explain what the accusations were?

Jacqui on

Hea, I’ll see if I can find the article I read and post a link. It was a while back and I don’t want to paraphrase too much or exaggerate – my memory isn’t what it used to be!

My overall impression was that Melissa had removed herself abruptly not only from her ex but from their kids as well.

Jacqui on

Nevermind. Tammy just posted a very strange rant on her blog. Whatever it was I read previously was very kind to her, because if you read her own words, she sounds a little . . . Off.

advertisement

From Our Partners

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters