by Julie McKenna
For over 35 years, Charlie Daniels has been performing his unique style of energetic music labeled only as “CDB music.” He began learning guitar and fiddle when he was a teen-ager, and eventually became proficient with many instruments. After he graduated from high school in 1955, he formed a band and the rest is music history. The Charlie Daniels Band has since spun out classics such as “Long Haired Country Boy,” “Uneasy Rider,” and the crossover hit that Charlie is most famous for, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Recently, Charlie used his spirited attitude that has made him a music legend to beat prostate cancer.
Charlie had an elevated PSA level for several years and monitored it closely. His doctors performed multiple biopsies during this time that turned up negative. Finally, in 2001, his astute surveillance paid off when a biopsy tested positive for prostate cancer.
When he heard the diagnosis from his doctor over the phone, Charlie realized that telling his wife would be the most difficult part. “She had gone shopping and I had time to get over the shock a little bit before she got back. I had time to call some doctors and get some answers on what I needed to do,” recalls Charlie. “But when she got back and I told her it was cancer, it devastated her. I told her that we were going to be fine and God would take care of us.”
Being the devoted performer that he is, Charlie was also concerned about whether he would be able to finish his touring season. “I was able to finish my tour because the doctors gave me some drugs that would basically just stop the cancer where it was and keep it confined until my surgery, which was scheduled for November 20,” says Charlie. “I told the guys in my band about it and they said, ‘Go get it taken care of. We’ll be here when you get back.’ They were all very supportive. They have been with me for a long time.”
Charlie Daniels’ crossover hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” made music history.
Charlie followed his doctor’s recommendation to have surgery with no radiation. Of his surgery Charlie recalls, “I’m not trying to make it sound like it was a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination, but it was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it was going to be. There was very little pain involved.”
The most inconvenient aspect for Charlie was taking it easy after the surgery. “They wouldn’t let me do anything for six weeks,” Charlie jokes. “But I got back to normal after the six weeks was over and I went right back out on the road.”
Charlie credits his positive attitude and faith in God for his unproblematic recovery. “I was comforted all through this thing – even when I went into the operating room I remember distinctly feeling peace about it.”
Currently, Charlie is enjoying touring and performing. “I’m just back doing what I do,” says Charlie. “I’ve got to stay on top of this. Every three months I go back and have blood work and other tests done. Other than that I’m living a very normal life.”
As for what advice he can offer someone who is diagnosed with cancer, Charlie says attitude is everything. “If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, don’t look at it like it’s going to knock a hole in your life,” Charlie recommends. He feels it is important to research your options and make an informed decision about your treatment. “You will also want to find a doctor you feel good about and trust. After that, put the rest of it in the hands of the Lord and go for it!”
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2003.