The well-known singer from Alabama, Randy Owen, had to deal with a dreadful diagnosis of prostate cancer. “How long do I have?” was the first thought that entered his head. Jeff Cook, the guitarist and fiddler in his band, also found out he had the same kind of cancer. The bass player, Teddy Gentry, had a similar worry, but happily, after a month of waiting, his test results were clear.
Gentry said, “It was such an eerie feeling.” However, the reality is that it may occur to any of us at any time. It’s completely terrifying and beyond our control.
The T.J. Martell Foundation’s 11th annual Nashville Honors Gala will present the Tony Martell Lifetime Entertainment Achievement Award to Alabama, the venerable country music trio. Alabama is particularly honored to get this accolade from the top cancer research funding foundation because every member of the organization has been touched by the disease. Also scheduled to attend is Jeff Cook, who is presently battling Parkinson’s illness.
“America comes to mind when I think of Alabama.” Laura Heatherly, CEO of the T.J. Martell Foundation, said, “They have touched so many people in this country through their music and their wonderful beliefs in helping others.” “We love to honor and recognize those who have made amazing contributions to our community, and there is no doubt that Alabama has had an impact on communities all over the nation.”
In 2003, Alabama, who will celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 2019, went on a farewell tour. Remarkably, they found that listeners were still moved by their music, which prompted a reunion for Brad Paisley’s hit song “Old Alabama” in 2011. Alabama hasn’t stopped creating songs or making plans since then.
Both Jeff Cook and Randy Owen received cancer diagnoses during their hiatus. Luckily, Cook trusted his medical staff and took their word that he would be alright. Owen, however, had to contend with a fiercer conflict. He received a harsh response from his doctor when he inquired about his life expectancy.
Owen remembers, “He said to me, ‘I refuse to work with you as long as you have that attitude.'” “I asked him what he meant since I was shocked. “I’m the ship’s captain now, and we’re going to beat this together,” he declared. The words provided me with courage.
The singer’s physician advised traveling to Mexico for treatment, as the country frequently uses high-intensity focused ultrasounds, or HIFUs, to cure cancer. Regretfully, the United States did not have access to this treatment. Owen came to Mexico for the successful therapy, accompanied by his wife and doctor. Owen hasn’t had cancer in nine years.
Although Owen’s experience receiving the life-saving operation in Mexico was harrowing, he feels that it was the right choice. He underlines the significance of having candid conversations about prostate cancer and the necessity of routine PSA testing. Owen exhorts men to ask for assistance without feeling embarrassed. He serves as a reminder that we are all fallible human beings.
Owen is dedicated to the study of cancer, even beyond his personal struggle. He helped fund nearly $800 million for cancer research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis as the founder of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids. Owen and his family were given a patient family room at the hospital as a token of appreciation for their three decades of charitable giving.
While Owen’s condition has greatly improved, Jeff Cook is still battling Parkinson’s disease. The gifted multi-instrumentalist disclosed in 2017 that he would no longer be able to tour frequently with Alabama after receiving a diagnosis four years prior.
Cook did, however, find that his guitar playing improved after receiving stem cell treatments. He keeps getting treatments, and when he feels well enough, he performs. During concerts, his bandmates make sure his gear is ready for him so he may play anytime he wants.
Cook is still eager and upbeat about playing the guitar in the recording studio, despite the occasional hiccup in his voice. He actually co-wrote the song “No Bad Days” for the band’s “Southern Drawl” album, which has a new significance for him.
Alabama’s music still inspires and touches the lives of its listeners in spite of the personal struggles they have encountered. Their tenacity and dedication to promoting Parkinson’s disease and cancer research serve as a reminder that despite our differences, we are all connected by our challenges and victories.