Members of Alabama Share Their Personal Battles with Cancer and Parkinson’s Disease

Randy Owen, the well-known musician from Alabama, had to face the horrifying news that he had prostate cancer. What went through his mind immediately was, “How long do I have?” His bandmate Jeff Cook, a guitarist and fiddler, also learned he had the same type of cancer. Teddy Gentry, the bassist, was also concerned, but thankfully, his test results were clear after a month of waiting.

“It was such an eerie feeling,” the gentleman remarked. In actuality, though, it may happen to any of us at any time. It’s completely terrifying and beyond our control.

Alabama, the legendary country music trio, will receive the Tony Martell Lifetime Entertainment Achievement Award at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 11th annual Nashville Honors Gala. Being the only state where every member of the top cancer research funding foundation has been impacted by the disease, Alabama is very honored to receive this recognition. Jeff Cook, who is actively battling Parkinson’s disease, is also slated to attend.

“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.

During their sabbatical, Jeff Cook and Randy Owen were both diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, Cook believed his medical team when they said he would be fine. Owen, though, faced a more intense struggle. When he asked his doctor how long he thought he would live, he got a stern answer.

“I refuse to work with you as long as you have that attitude,” Owen recalls him saying. “I was astonished, so I asked him what he meant. He proclaimed, “I’m the ship’s captain now, and we’re going to beat this together.” The words gave me confidence.

The singer’s doctor suggested that she go to Mexico for treatment because the nation regularly employs high-intensity focused ultrasounds, or HIFUs, as a cancer treatment. Unfortunately, this treatment was not available in the United States. Owen traveled to Mexico with his spouse and physician in order to undergo the successful therapy. It has been nine years since Owen had cancer.

Owen believes that the decision to have the life-saving surgery in Mexico was the right one, despite the terrifying experience he had. He emphasizes the need of regular PSA testing and the need of having open discussions regarding prostate cancer. Owen encourages men to get help without feeling ashamed. He reminds us all that we are flawed human beings.

Owen’s commitment to the study of cancer extends beyond his own hardship. As the creator of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, he contributed to the over $800 million funding of cancer research at Memphis’ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As a thank you for their thirty years of generous donations, the hospital granted Owen and his family a patient family room.

Jeff Cook continues to struggle with Parkinson’s disease, despite Owen’s condition having significantly improved. After being diagnosed four years earlier, the talented multi-instrumentalist revealed in 2017 that he would no longer be able to tour regularly with Alabama.

Cook did discover, though, that after getting stem cell treatments, his guitar playing got better. He continues receiving therapy, and he acts when he is well enough. His bandmates make sure his equipment is ready for him so he can play whenever he wants during performances.

Even with the odd hiccup in his voice, Cook is nonetheless enthusiastic and eager to play guitar in the recording studio. For the band’s “Southern Drawl” album, he really co-wrote the song “No Bad Days,” which has fresh meaning for him.

Despite the listeners’ own hardships, Alabama’s music continues to inspire and affect their lives. Their perseverance and commitment to furthering cancer and Parkinson’s disease research serve as a reminder that, despite our differences, our struggles and triumphs are what bind us all together.

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