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Jackie Lee's Long Year

By Ashley Eicher and Hunter Kelly

On our first episode of All Our Favorite People, we welcome country singer Jackie Lee. We’ve known Jackie Lee for several years through red carpet and sit-down interviews as well as hilarious exchanges on Twitter. Ashley and Jackie were actually featured side-by-side in Nashville Lifestyles magazine’s Single in the City issue a few years back, and you can hear their hilarious stories about that experience later in the episode. Up front, we’re talking in-depth about Jackie’s recent revelation that he’s now a cancer survivor. Not long after losing his beloved mother, Ladonna, to ovarian cancer in 2016, Jackie himself was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent surgery in December 2016 to remove the testicle, but the cancer returned. Around this time, Jackie wrote his new song, “Long Year,” which is a letter to his mother, Ladonna, just wishing she was with him as he faced his own cancer battle. As he faced chemotherapy in late 2017, Jackie bought a camera and shot footage during his treatment, and that footage is included in his powerful new video for “Long Year.” His hope is that in sharing his story, it will give someone else the hope they need to get through whatever they are facing. You can see it here: Jackie received a clean bill of health after his treatment ended in January 2018, but the emotional healing process is ongoing. We are honored to have Jackie as our first guest to share this incredible and emotionally raw story with us. Here are some key moments from our conversation: On finding the right doctor, Dr. Lawrence Einhorn in Indiana, after the cancer returned: “It really changed the whole process for me…He’s the guy that cured Lance Armstrong and several astronauts and the coach for the Colts. He’s an 85-year-old man that’s cute as a button. Just perfect…My mom’s two sisters and my dad, we got in the car and we drove up to Indianapolis. It’s just so much emotion, because we didn’t know what we were getting into at the time. This is September. We drive up there, and we’re all sitting in the doctor’s office, because we do everything as a team in my family. Nobody goes alone, and we’re sitting in there and Dr. Einhorn walks in. He just has this warm smile, and he’s like, ‘Jackie, first off, I don’t know what you do for a living, but I bet you’re a musician ‘cause you’ve got holes in your jeans and you’ve got great hair.’ I said, ‘You got it!’ He asked me about my doctor’s and what do they want to do? I told him what they were wanting to do about the port and all this stuff. He goes, ‘Nope, none of that.’ He says, ‘You’re 26 years old. You’ve got your health.’ At this point, the cancer — I never felt any sickness from the cancer. We’re talking really small seeds of cancer that are — obviously if you don’t fix it, it turns into something really bad. But at the time, it’s very small seeds in my abdomen area. He said, ‘You have your health. You’re very young. Your veins are great.’ You can see the bruises on my arm still from where we did all the injections, but he said, ‘You’re going to get a  needle in the arm every time. That’s how you’re going to get your treatment.’ He goes, ‘You’re going to live as normal as you can through this next nine weeks.’ It ended up by being 12 weeks when it was all said and done, or 11 weeks. He said, ‘You’re going to feel fatigue and you’re going to lose your hair, but you’re not going to lose your spirit.’ And that absolutely wrecked me in that doctor’s office. It kind of still wrecks me now. I felt like it was my mom talking to me for a second. It was just one of those moments. I was really hurt at that time. I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t understand why it was going on. I never thought I was gonna die. I never had those moments, but I did know that there was a really long road ahead of me. I just really wanted my mom to be there with me. I felt like she was in the room with me that day.” On watching his mother go through chemotherapy versus experiencing it firsthand: “First off, food. Everything tastes like sand. The consistency. The taste. Everything is just bland. Even water. To this day — ‘cause I had to go to the hospital last week to get a checkup. Everything’s great. We’re still all clear. — They have a brand of water at [the hospital], and I look at that bottle — it tastes just like this water [I’m drinking now], but because I associate that brand and that water [with chemotherapy], it legit makes my stomach hurt. Everything was so different. I didn’t understand that sitting with my mom through all of this. I had no idea. My dad had been through it. He never left my mom’s side all day long for three-and-a-half years. Now, he’s being put through another helpless situation for him. He was saying, ‘Jackie, I will drive anywhere if there’s anything your tastebuds remotely want. I will make it. I will go get it. I’ll call it in.’ There was nothing. He would force me to drink, in a very loving way, Pedialyte, just so I could have something inside of me that would hydrate me. It’s a sucky, sucky thing.” On finding inspiration to go forward from his mother’s own words: At the end of the video [for ‘Long Year’] is where we start talking about those Post-It notes. What was so crazy — my mom wrote hundreds of Post-It notes all over the house, and my brother took a handful of ‘em , and put ‘em in a shadowbox picture frame. This was all the time it was just coming together. This is one of those things I do believe God one-hundred percent, He showed up. [My brother] Kinsey took a picture [of the Post-Its] and said, ‘Hey, zoom into the middle.’ That’s when we talked about ‘Comeback,’ and it being a song we were going to record. So now, [another new song] ’Comeback’ will come out on May 25th. The artwork for ‘Comeback’ is going to be her handwriting. The Post-It says, ‘Your setback is a setup for a comeback.’”

Listen to Jackie Lee's Long Year now.

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