After having stomach pains and digestive issues for some time, I remember waking up from the anesthesia following my colonoscopy.
Groggy and recharged at the same time, I was relieved to have the test behind me. But when my doc entered the room, my stomach dropped. I could tell he had news, and not the good kind. “You have a tumor, Wade. It’s so large, you’ve likely had it for years.”
I felt blindsided. How could this even happen? I was in such good shape and had no family history of cancer. In fact, I’d been talking to my doctor about my symptoms and we thought I was too young to even consider something like that.
Apparently that wasn’t the case. At age 42, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. And that unappreciated life of mine quickly flashed before my eyes. I had to make a choice, and I decided to fight like heck.
I dived into surgeries, chemotherapy and anything that might help kill this cancer before it killed me.
I tried to keep doing what made me feel like myself— writing and performing music. Through my cancer journey, I used writing as an outlet for my fears, frustrations and hopes.
When I was diagnosed, I’d been spending much of my time on stage and on the road for gigs. When I started treatment, the traveling and shows were quickly put on hold. The chemo was tough. My body faced some side effects that I’m still overcoming today. Chemo destroys soft tissue, and as treatment progressed, it caused neuropathy and damaged my throat and nose. Singing and playing guitar became very difficult; I’m just now starting to feel like my old self again, and man, does it feel amazing.
After my last treatment, I went to visit my doc, who’d become a good friend of mine through this whole mess.
He looked me in the eyes and told me something I’ll never forget: that there was no evidence of disease in my body. He said, “Now it’s time to go live your life.”
After three years of surgeries, chemo and some recurrences, today I consider myself a healthy and humbled man. “Go live your life” has a totally different meaning for me in my post-cancer world. It means getting in my truck and realizing how lucky I am to be able to drive myself to the grocery store. It means stopping in my tracks at the gym and remembering the days I barely had the energy to walk to the front door. It means taking advantage of every chance I have to give back by spreading the word about colon cancer prevention and early detection.
After that day, I went home and wrote my newest song, “Go Live Your Life.” It’s about chasing your dreams and jumping at every opportunity that’s presented to you.
Since then, I’ve done just that. I’ve partnered with the Colon Cancer Alliance on national initiatives that will help raise awareness about this disease. At Colon Cancer Alliance events and concerts throughout the country, I remind people about the importance of being screened for colorectal cancer. Genentech is helping me give back by donating $1 for every song download of “Go Live Your Life” to the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Blue Note Fund, which provides financial stipends for people undergoing colon cancer treatment.
Although the road to recovery has been slower than I’ve wanted at times, I look at the big picture and am grateful that I’m still around. I’m still here and have the opportunity to help spare somebody from going through what I did, and that’s what it’s all about. In my second chance, I am truly living my life.
—Originally from Oklahoma, Wade Hayes made his country-music debut in 1994 with his gold-certified album “Old Enough to Know Better.” His soon-to-be-released latest album will feature the song “Go Live Your Life.” To learn more about Wade Hayes, visit goliveyourlife.com.