by Laura Shipp
Randy Owen rose to country-music superstardom in the late 80s as the front man for the band Alabama. Throughout their career, the group has sold over 73 million albums, racked up 42 No. 1 singles, taken home more than 150 industry awards, including 8 for Entertainer of the Year, been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and been named Country Group of the Century by the Recording Industry Association.
Since the band completed their farewell tour seven years ago, Randy has branched out on his own, releasing his debut solo album, One On One, in 2008. And he just wrapped up another project, Friends, to be released in April, which will benefit firefighters and police officers who have been injured in the line of duty. The 61-year-old singer and songwriter isn’t planning to slow down any time soon.
When Randy calls me for our Coping® interview, he’s in the middle of a morning songwriting session at his farm near his hometown of Ft. Payne, AL. He even sings a few lyrics of a song he’s currently working on, and admits that when he’s writing, he tends to get lost in it and forget everything else that is going on around him.
“I’ve made some changes in my professional life,” he tells me. “After all these issues that I’ve dealt with this past year, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to do what I want to do the rest of my life and be unafraid. So that’s what I’m doing right now.”
The “issues” Randy is referring to are his recent prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. The cancer was found after a blood test during a regular check-up indicated that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were elevated. “When they told me that I had cancer, it was devastating,” he admits. “My whole world stopped. Cancer is a scary thing. It is a scary, scary word when it’s said about you.”
But Randy soon learned that since his cancer was caught early, it was highly treatable. He underwent high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), a treatment currently in clinical trials that uses high-energy sound waves to destroy cancer cells.
His wife of 36 years, Kelly, was by his side through the whole ordeal, offering emotional support and making sure that he followed his doctors’ orders. “She has been a rock,” he boasts. “I don’t know how I could have made it through if it had not been for her.”
There aren’t many problems that are big anymore.
As someone who was raised in church and who grew up singing hymns, Randy says that his faith also played a major role in his recovery. “I do believe in prayer,” he asserts. “The thing that meant the most to me was all the people around the world who were praying for me. I don’t know how much more of a boost you can get. First of all, to know that people cared about you, and second, to know that prayer gets answers.”
Thankfully, his prayers were answered. He says that his last health report was “absolutely perfect.”
One good thing that has come out of having cancer, Randy says, is that it has helped him to see what is important in life and not worry about the rest. “There aren’t many problems that are big anymore,” he attests. “I just wish that everybody around me could see through my eyes, could just see that this little thing is not really a problem.
“I’ll tell you what a problem is,” he adds. “It’s somebody telling you that you have cancer. That’s a problem! All this other stuff is not serious; it’s just stuff that people get irritated about.”
Now that he’s finished treatment, Randy says he’s excited about his future. For him, that means taking on projects that are meaningful to him. “I’m working on, not one, but two different songs right now,” he says with a hint of a smile in his voice. “It may not be a number one record. It may not be a song that’s ever recorded. But that’s not important. What’s important is doing something that’s in your soul and in your heart, doing something that makes you happy.”
And that’s exactly how Randy plans to spend his time now that he’s healthy – just doing what makes him happy. He’s proof that not even cancer can keep a good man down.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2011.