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Singer Beth Nielsen Chapman on her Music & Recovery from Breast Cancer

Beth Nielsen Chapman is a renowned American singer and songwriter, who has written hits for country and pop music performers. She has been twice nominated for Grammy awatds and has released thirteen solo albums and written seven #1 hits and songs.

Recently inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Beth is a breast cancer survivor and an environmentalist. She considers herself a creative midwife, passionate about inspiring others to fully blossom into their creative life. She has been invited to be an Ambassador for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.

Renowned Singer & songwriter, Beth Chapman in her interview with Ms. Namita Nayyar, President, Women Fitness shares her journey as a artist & breast cancer survivor.

Congratulations, for being inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame? You define yourself as a breast cancer survivor and environmentalist and feel proud of being a creative midwife, passionate about inspiring others to fully blossom into their creative life. How does it make you feel?

Beth Nielsen Chapman:

I would say all of the above makes me feel incredibly grateful. Even the rough spots I have come through have given me a perspective and a confidence that I’ll be ok whatever life hands me —that I never take for granted.  I am particularly grateful to be a part of helping others recognize their inherent value as creative points of light.

Creativity has been the center of my life and I feel like it’s the fuel of happiness for most people and it’s truly a joy to help those who have felt cut off from the creative flow that’s all around them.   

As mentioned You “found this tiny lump in my breast in late 1998. It was no bigger than a lentil and rather hard to find but you could feel it.” When was that, how long has it been seen you recovered?

Beth Nielsen Chapman:

Unfortunately, I was not in touch with how important it was for me to really medically have determined the lump in my breast was “nothing “. I went to my gynecologist when I first felt it and he did a mammogram which came back supposedly not showing anything. At which time he basically said something like “it’s probably nothing “.  By the time it was correctly diagnosed it had been another stretch of time of almost 2 years and had become stage two which made my diagnosis much more serious. If only I had known to insist on a needle aspiration or ultrasound during that first visit.

I was incredibly lucky to have only had a lump ectomy and to find out that it had not spread to my lymph nodes. I underwent three months of intense chemotherapy and 6 1/2 weeks of radiation and have since made a full recovery and have made it one of my personal goals to let as many people as possible know the importance of going to a breast specialist with a lump in your breast because many gynaecologist are not trained with the same intensity around following up on all of the aspects to make sure it’s not cancer.

According to you how often should women check-up themselves for any build-up in their breast?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

I think every woman needs to understand her own breasts and there are lots of different types of density and other parameters that must be taken into consideration. But I think it is important that you get to know your breasts and at least once a month do a very thorough exam to check for any changes. 

How far are the doctors & medical systems able to handle early detection?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Doctors and medical systems I think are generally variable in terms of the amount of thoroughness they might have for early detection. I believe it is something that each woman has to take responsibility for and learn as much as possible to help protect themselves from what I think is sometimes a lackadaisical attitude towards women especially younger women who are presenting with breast lumps or other concerns.

Sometimes you might have to push for additional tests to really be certain. I am also a big believer in getting a second opinion if you have any doubts or concerns that your doctor or medical person has not been through enough.

You shared that despite stage 2 breast cancer (it hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes.). Lifestyle and diet modifications, you followed and would advise women to follow while keeping a track of Breast changes. Foods to eat in moderation, avoid and boost up? Please share 5 healing-soothing foods 

Beth Nielsen Chapman

I had always thought of myself as good with nutrition, but I learned a lot more when going through breast cancer.

I reduced my sugar intake and increase green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.

On my website there is a great recipe for kale soup that I used to literally make and drink out of a wine glass as an elixir of sorts! Since I had to give up my wine, I figured I might as well enjoy my magic elixir in my crystal wine glass!

I did greatly reduce alcohol intake as well as turned more to whole grains and nuts and limited my dairy intake. fresh organic vegetables and fruits whenever possible. Especially blueberries and strawberries and apples always organic because the pesticides they use on these are in higher concentration.

It is ironic as I studied a lot during the period, I was getting well that I discovered the same company that creates pesticides also manufactures chemotherapy drugs. Go figure! Pretty interesting that they would be a part of the cause and a part of the cure… Something to think about.

After a successful lumpectomy and chemo and radiation and a whole lot of other complimentary healthy regimes you were able to heal back into wellness. Can you share your journey – challenges, moments of loneliness, and things that kept you going?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

During the experience of healing through breast cancer I relied heavily on my friends and my family. My son was 19 at the time and it was devastating to me that he would have to see me lose my hair right around the holidays which was unfortunately around the same time of year when his father went through chemotherapy for the first time when he was 12. My husband Ernest died of lymphoma in 1994 so for my son to have to see his remaining parent go through cancer was probably the hardest thing about the whole journey for me.

Fortunately, I was in a quite different situation than my late husband was as his diagnosis was much more dire. I had a very good prognosis and in fact in the process of healing through back into full health my son and I both healed a great deal from the grief of having lost his father and life became joyful again and we moved on in a way that I think had some hidden gifts.

Did song writing, and guitar continue to be an indispensable part of your healing journey? Songs you listened or sang during that time.

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Music is one of the most important things that kept me feeling connected on a deep level although I didn’t feel like playing guitar or piano or writing songs I would literally drag myself to the piano and turn on a tape recorder for 10 minutes every day and just play around without any pressure on coming up with anything brilliant… It was just to stay connected to music and interestingly enough some of those melodies that happened when I was so sick I could barely stand it or some of the most powerful melodies I’ve ever written and many months after I felt better I finished writing those songs.

Having experienced healing through cancer it is a gift to be able to offer someone beginning the journey hope and inspiration. A Message for all patients suffering from breast cancer?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Yes, every time I have been asked to call someone who’s just been diagnosed, I feel very grateful that I can give this gift to someone else that someone gave to me. In those first few days of absolute shock and fear I spoke to a couple of women through Gilda’s club here in Nashville. They were able to talk to me in a way that no one else could because they had already been to the journey and we are on the other side of it.

I just recently had another one of those conversations just a couple of days ago and I told the woman I was speaking with that one day she was going to be calling someone else who was newly diagnosed and she would realize how powerful and grateful it felt to be on the other side of this and be able to give some help to someone just starting out.

Your present Diet & exercise routine that you stick by ?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Well I wish I could say I was the queen of diet and exercise ha ha Ha! I will say that I am always trying to do my best because I have all the information and I know all the things to do! I have managed to quit drinking for about the last seven years and I think that was a huge important thing for me to do since I didn’t seem to be all that great at moderating and it is one of the most dangerous things you can do in excess if you have had cancer.

Probably my biggest challenge is getting myself to bed early enough! There is just so much I want to stay up and do and I must literally force myself to stop and try to get a decent night sleep.

Other than that, I try to meditate and manage stress which in the year 2020 is not so easy of course but I will be working on it every day shooting for all the little victories I can manage! 

I’m not officially a member of any organization related to breast cancer although I am involved indirectly as someone that can be called upon to connect with those who have been recently diagnosed and I am always happy to do that.

 Organizations you are a part of related to breast cancer, today?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

I’m not officially a member of any organization related to breast cancer although I am involved indirectly as someone that can be called upon to connect with those who have been recently diagnosed and I am always happy to do that.

The Year 2020 will bring the release of your 15th solo album along with a world tour starting in the UK in October. Working with legendary producer Ray Kennedy (Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle) this one is going to be epic! Here comes a tough one, Your all-time favorite Song?

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Yes, I am very excited about my 15th solo album which will be released hopefully by the end of 2021 now due to the pandemic and how 2020 has pretty much slid off the page! I have had an absolute blast working with Ray Kennedy and excited to tour this record which is full of energy and great moments and songs that I love.

My all-time favorite song that is a tough one! I think my favorite song of all time is “let me call you sweetheart “which I learned as a child…

Special Thanks to Beth Nielsen Chapman for sharing her story on Women Fitness.

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