Singer-Songwriter & Breast Cancer Survivor Rebecca King-Crews
& Her Husband, Actor Terry Crews, Share Their Story
by Ashley Hubbard
We’ve all seen him on our TV screens. Even if you don’t know his name, you likely know his face. Whether it was during a Sunday afternoon football game, an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, America’s Got Talent, or maybe even an Old Spice commercial, it would have been impossible not to notice the beaming, charismatic smile and chiseled physique of Terry Crews.
But as the saying goes, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” And nothing could be truer when it comes to Rebecca King-Crews, Terry’s wife of more than 30 years.
While audiences may be quicker to recognize Terry, Rebecca is a talented entertainer as well. A singer-songwriter at heart, she is also an actor, producer, and author.
Growing up, Rebecca idolized the likes of Carole King and Stevie Wonder. When she relaunched her music career in her late 40s, Rebecca used a stage name – Regina Madre – so that her music would be judged on its own merit, apart from her husband’s megawatt celebrity. The name Regina Madre means Queen Mother.
“We are all queens as we rule over our various queendoms, and we are all mothers in a way, because we are always nurturing others in our lives,” Rebecca explains to Coping® in a recent interview.
Terry and Rebecca first met when they were both attending Western Michigan University in the ‘80s before tying the knot in 1990. They quickly started a family and went on to welcome five children into the fold.
“My children are truly the light of my life. I love each of their unique traits, their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses,” Rebecca says. “I am also very, very, very proud of my marriage. I’ve watched [Terry] grow from a boy into a man and cheered him along the way. “I’m like Wonder Woman with my cape flapping in the wind, and he’s like my Superman.”
Terry’s Advice to Caregivers
“You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on others. Take care of yourself and acknowledge every feeling and emotion. You don’t want things to sneak up on you. Work out, eat well, and get your rest. It sounds easy to do, but self-care is the first thing that goes out the window when a loved one is sick. A better caregiver is a healthy caregiver.”
A Bump in the Road
A super couple though they may be, you don’t get to 30 years of marriage without some bumps in the road. Unfortunately, the Crews family hit a major one in January 2020 when Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As part of her routine checkup, Rebecca insisted that she be given both a mammogram and an ultrasound due to having a benign lump removed 10 years prior.
“When we did the mammogram, they did not find anything,” Rebecca shares. “I quickly reminded them that I needed my ultrasound as well because of my history, and they replied that they did not have an order for one. I asked them to look again or call my doctor because I wasn’t leaving without one. Lo and behold, it was still in the fax machine.”
Sure enough, that ultrasound showed a lump, and Rebecca’s gut instinct was confirmed.
The news of Rebecca’s diagnosis came the morning after some incredibly happy news for the family. Rebecca and Terry’s son, Isaiah, had just been cast on a new Nickelodeon television show. As they were celebrating their son’s accomplishment, Rebecca received the call.
“Believe it or not, I wasn’t shocked,” Rebecca shares. “I did not cry, and I was not afraid. Right at that moment I just had this steely resolve – that’s the best way I can describe it. I had had a sort of premonition the day that I laid on the table for the biopsy. Something spoke to me and said, If they find something, Rebecca, cut it off and rebuild it. Don’t play around.”
Rebecca may have been made of steel, but Terry, on the other hand …“He melted like a stick of butter!” Rebecca exclaims. “I literally watched my husband turn into another man when I told him. I gave him the equivalent of a verbal slap, and I said ‘Don’t look at me like that. I’m not gonna die. I need you to be strong because I’m fighting, and I need you to fight with me.’”
“I was scared for dear life,” Terry concurs. “I had to resist the temptation to freeze, and I had to wake up and do everything Rebecca needed me to do so we could be aggressive in her cancer battle. She became a warrior, and I wanted to give her everything she needed to fight.”
Terry may have pulled his strength together quickly, but that doesn’t mean it was simple. When asked what the most difficult thing to endure was, Terry explains, “[It was] the doubts. The worry. The horrible scenarios you envision. Imagining the worst can drain the life out of you.
“We countered that with positive affirmations and talk of the future. What we will do and what we have yet to accomplish. It took constant, faithful effort to keep those things within eyesight – and it was very difficult. We had some good days … then we had some bad ones, and the bad ones were really hard.”
Surgery and Shutdowns
Though cancer was found in only one of her breasts, Rebecca opted to undergo a double mastectomy instead of single mastectomy or lumpectomy. “I chose to do the double mastectomy,” Rebecca says, “because it just felt silly to me to worry about the other one for the next 10 years. I’m glad I did it.
Confident in her decision, Rebecca was eager to get the ball rolling. She was booked for surgery on March 3, 2020, not knowing that in just two weeks, the country would shut down because of COVID-19.
“I literally woke up from surgery, hired an assistant, and took my son to his first day of work the following week, still wearing the drainage tubes from surgery,” Rebecca shares.
Just two weeks later, though, everyone was sent home, as stay-at-home orders began to go into effect across the country. Something Terry was a bit relieved about since it meant Rebecca could just rest and focus on her recovery and not worry about supervising her son’s acting career.
Rebecca was given a clean bill of health and told the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes. Welcome news, as this meant no chemo or radiation was needed. “My tumor was stage I and slow-growing,” she says. “I was very fortunate to have caught it early.”
For Better, for Worse, in Sickness and in Health
Rebecca and Terry agree that this journey has changed their relationship for the better and even given them a greater purpose as a couple.
“Being public figures changes the way you live your life. It’s not just about you, but about how everything you do affects everyone who watches you,” Rebecca explains. “You are not allowed to be selfish. Your platform has a responsibility whether you accept it or not. We chose to accept it. It has made us more unified, as if we have a purpose together. The purpose has evolved and will continue to evolve.”
With the bulk of Rebecca’s cancer journey over, the Crewses are looking ahead. The thing they’re looking forward to the most? An empty nest!
Rebecca’s Words of Wisdom for Survivors
“First of all, don’t freak out. People are surviving and living longer than they ever have. But, also, read as much as you can, become your own advocate, pray for guidance, get a second opinion, and rely on support. Cry when you need to; then get up and fight.
There are many cancer support groups. Find one in your community and be a part of a group who have gone through what you are going through.
And for heaven’s sake, stay away from negativity! Don’t read worst-case scenarios, and don’t watch sad movies about people who die of cancer. Resist the urge to feel sorry for yourself. Do your best to fill yourself with good, happy, hopeful thoughts.”
“We’re kickin’ the kids out!” exclaims Rebecca. “We’re gonna have a lot of fun together. We are diving into new opportunities in business while also hoping to incorporate the adult children into our endeavors so that we can pass along something to them. We’re also planning to travel, do more philanthropy, and mentor others.”
Terry agrees, “Rebecca and I have never had a home without kids!”
And the pride Terry has in his wife is clear. “Her business endeavors are going so well right now,” he beams. “I hope she becomes the main breadwinner for a while.”
She just might, Terry. Rebecca plans to make more music and has been writing new songs and getting new business ideas. Staying true to form, though, Rebecca reminds us that she’s still raising children, and that is her priority: “I’m half-mommy, half-mogul, and I like it like that!”
You can follow Rebecca on Twitter (@RebeccaKCrews) and on Instagram (@TheRealRebeccaKingCrews).
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2021.