Singer-Songwriter as a ‘Cancer Thriver’ | Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage

My name is Rachael Sage, and I am an endometrial cancer thriver. I like to think my story is one of gratitude and empowerment for other women who may feel that they are alone or lack hope, upon receiving their cancer diagnosis.

In Spring 2018 I was having the time of my life; 46 years old, a singer-songwriter in my prime coming off a whirlwind tour, and about to release a brand-new album. I had never been so happy, and it finally seemed like everything in my life was “coming together” after decades of hard work and persistence. I’d also recently started seeing someone new, and being the good girl that I am, I figured it couldn’t hurt to get tested. It had been a while…and my insurance company had sent their annual reminder to get a Pap test, so the next time I was home from touring I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood, and asked them to “do everything.” And everything, they did. I was proud of myself for being such an adult (I’d never been great at consistently getting checked, which I know is somewhat of a cliché for an artist with her head somewhat in the clouds).

A couple weeks later I noticed I’d missed a voicemail message, and was surprised to hear a rather urgent-sounding message from someone at PP asking me to call there immediately. Apparently, there was an “abnormality” in my test and I should have a colposcopy right away; I was shocked and instantly very scared. I called my sister and she recommended a gynecologist she’d heard good things about. Before I knew it, this very kind but serious doctor was performing an ultrasound, and then an immediate biopsy on the spot in her office. I could tell she saw something unsettling but she tried to downplay it. Nonetheless I was to speak with her the following Monday about the results. “It’s probably fibroids, but let’s make sure,” I remember her saying.

The next day I flew from New York City to Arizona to play a festival in 98-degree heat. I was exhausted, but overall, I felt great. I had no symptoms…other than a little bleeding from the biopsy. I pushed the idea out of my mind as long as I could, but that Monday I indeed received the difficult news that I “likely had endometrial cancer, although it might be cervical.” A week later another specialist showed me my tumor on a screen, described it as “the size of a plum” and told me I should act right away. I was in a state of shock, but I went to work researching everything like the CEO that I am, and didn’t really stop until weeks later, when my course of treatment was finally agreed upon by several specialists.

In the months that followed, I was very fortunate to receive wonderful care from a team of doctors and nurses at both Mass General Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering. Bittersweetly, my album “Myopia” came out worldwide while I was still in recovery from surgery (my “CD Release Party” was me giving copies to my wonderful nurses), and of course, tour dates were cancelled indefinitely as I geared up for six rounds of chemo, along with radiation. My new relationship–which had already showing signs of strain–unfortunately fell apart while I was in treatment. But close friends and family members rallied around me, and my musical band-mates visited to cheer me up and encourage me to play a little, when I could muster the energy.

It was a long, challenging road to recovery, but along the way I became involved in Y4C (Yoga 4 Cancer), a wonderful community focused on yoga specific designed for cancer patients and survivors. The women in this group became my friends, and eventually, I even collaborated with my teacher on a choreographed dance performance, accompanied by my song “Bravery’s on Fire.” My release of this very personal new recording benefited the two hospitals where I had been treated, which felt gratifying as well as emotionally intense.

By early 2019, I was so much recovered that I was able to begin working on a fully new album. With the support of my (very sensitive) musician-friends, we created a recording centered on gratitude and empowerment, called “Character.” The album was a labor of love, and in many ways, it helped heal me not only physically but mentally. I had been extremely depressed throughout much of my treatment, but as the proverbial clouds continued to clear and my newly-acquired integrative therapies of meditation and yoga became second-nature, my ability to embrace the joy of making music returned, stronger than ever!

By the summer of 2019, I was back on tour full-force, mind-boggled at the sheer capacity of the human spirit and body to overcome the trials I had been through. As though I had literally been given a new lease on life, I found myself onstage, more focused and present than I had ever been. I was eating more healthily, exercising more, and generally felt stronger than ever. A few months later I was offered a major tour with one of my favorite artists, Howard Jones, who had reached out to me shortly after my 47th birthday, to invite me to join him for seven weeks of shows across the U.S. And then, about four weeks into that tour…COVID-19 happened.

These days, like most people, I have pretty wide ups and downs, and often question what the “reason” could be for why the world might be going through such a crisis as this pandemic. But I am ever-grateful for the tangible evidence I gathered, unwittingly, during my cancer diagnosis and recovery: the evidence of compassion and generosity beyond what I could have ever dreamed possible, and the evidence of hope in every conceivable form. This recognition–of what every individual faces in their own private struggles, and the strength that so many unsung heroes possess in overcoming their obstacles–is something that has altered me, and will always inspire me. When I am feeling discouraged, scared about another pending MRI, or just worried about the state of the world at large, I recall the kindness of my medical team, my family, my friends and my Yoga 4 Cancer community. I believe more than ever that we are on this planet to help each other any way we can, and in some ways having cancer has further crystallized that for me. For that, I am grateful–and because of that, I will continue to sing!

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