Levon Helm’s first solo studio album in 25 years, Dirt Farmer, earned a Grammy nomination for the Best Traditional Folk Album. Helm, 67, former drummer and vocalist for The Band, was left barely able to speak after his 1996 throat cancer diagnosis — 28 radiation treatments, along with surgery to remove the cancerous tumor from his larynx, silenced his voice to a whisper.
Helm continued to play the drums with his band, The Barn Burners, and held late-night concerts, called Midnight Rambles, in the barn at his home in Woodstock. These small concerts set the scene for Helm to begin singing again as his voice grew stronger. He started doing background vocals along with his daughter, Amy. Her encouragement led to recording sessions in the spring of 2005 for Helm’s new album.
> Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is the 2007 winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award, presented annually to a player for overcoming adversity through spirit, determination and courage.
Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2006, Lester had six chemotherapy treatments and returned to the Red Sox less than a year later to pitch the winning Game 4 of the World Series, ending the season with a 4-0 record.
The award is named for the Red Sox player whose career was cut short after being hit in the face by a pitch in 1967. Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, a testicular cancer survivor, won the award in 1999.
> Olympic gold medalist figure skater Dorothy Hamill took a break from the “Broadway on Ice” tour in January while she underwent treatment for breast cancer.
> In honor of Detroit Lions director of security Ricky Sandoval, diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2006, the football team partnered with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in November. The Lions funded a public service announcement featuring Sandoval with defensive captain Cory Redding sporting a purple pancreatic cancer awareness bracelet.
> The Tug McGraw Foundation (www.tugmcgraw.org) gala raised more than $300,000 last fall for pioneering brain cancer research focusing on quality-of-life issues for brain tumor patients and their caregivers. Country singer Tim McGraw and his father, Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw, former relief pitcher for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, created the foundation before Tug died of brain cancer in 2004.
Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne donated the $800,000 from their two-day garage sale in December to the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Sharon, shown here with the auction catalog, established the program in 2004, two years after her colon cancer diagnosis and treatment at Cedars-Sinai.