Sheryl Crow: Life After Breast Cancer, Motherhood, and All-Natural Anti-Aging
Jack GuyFrom Health magazineSheryl Crow is one of musics biggest talents, but youd never know it talking to her. The mom of 2-year-old Wyatt is more likely to chat about motherhood than about being a rock star (even President Obama has her music on his iPod). Despite her fame, shes still the same down-to-earth girl from Missouri.
Not that Sheryl, 47, is afraid of the spotlight—shes been an advocate for a ton of causes, including finding a cure for breast cancer, which she was involved with even before her own cancer diagnosis in 2006. (Shes now cancer-free.)
And while shes always been a fitness fanatic and sensible eater, Sheryls now even more mindful of preserving her health. In 2007, she opted for a less stressful life and moved to a farm outside of Nashville, where she lives with Wyatt.
This month, Sheryl releases a deluxe two-disc edition of her debut album Tuesday Night Music Club, stuffed with goodies like a bonus DVD, rarities, and B-sides. At the end of a busy day, she took questions submitted by Health readers. (“Great question!” she kept exclaiming, so kudos to you!)
Q: Im a breast cancer survivor, and Im wondering, are you doing anything special with your diet to stay healthy and cancer-free?
—Sherry Lebed Davis, Lynnwood, Wash.
Sheryl: When I first got diagnosed, I went to this great nutritionist who specializes in disease prevention and well-being, and I still incorporate her tips like eating omega-3s—I eat salmon or other fish at least three times a week.
I eat a lot of walnuts, almonds, colorful vegetables, and prunes, which get such a bad rap but are loaded with antioxidants. I also drink pomegranate juice and keep a vat of tomato soup around or some kind of tomato sauce, because it has lycopene. Also, spices like cinnamon, which I throw into my cereal.
And one big thing I learned was that so much of wellness depends on your body getting rid of waste. So I eat a lot of Fiber One, which has 14 grams of fiber per serving.
Next Page: Cancer survivor attitude [ pagebreak ]
Jack GuyQ: My mom was a two-time cancer survivor, and both times she was told that her attitude was the strongest tool she had. What has helped you most?
—Kym Ott, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Sheryl: It was a really personal blow, because I was newly out of a relationship and that made it more difficult to even fathom that I could be diagnosed with cancer. And this great friend told me one of the gateways to awakening is to allow yourself to experience your emotions.
As Westerners, weve gotten adept at suppressing them. Its always ‘Try not to think about it or ‘Keep yourself busy. You push all that stuff down, and it manifests itself in other ways—whether its stress or disease. So my attitude was to grieve when I felt like grieving, be afraid when I felt like being afraid, and be angry when I felt like being angry. It also helped me to learn to say no to people. Thats been really liberating.
I kept my breast cancer tattoos—where the radiation was lined up on my chest. Once in a while I look at it to remind myself that I have to put on my oxygen mask first before I put it on anybody else.
Q: Whats it like when you go in for check-ups? Are you nervous? Do you take a friend?
—Heather Lynn, Warwick, N.Y.
Sheryl: I totally get nervous. In between checkups, I rarely think about having had cancer. I am reminded of it because I get to speak of it a lot: I have the dubious honor of talking to women about being diligent, knowing their family history, and so on. But when I go in, it is a sobering moment when youre waiting for the results.
Q: What is your prognosis?
—Dinah Williams, Cranford, N.J.
Sheryl: Im now sort of out of the danger zone, so I dont think about it as much. Although recently I had to have my uterus looked at, and that was terrifying. It was like Oh my God, what if it spread? So its definitely part of my life now.
Q: Whats the best thing about being you?
—Kimberly Lee, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Sheryl: I have this great little boy who has enhanced my life in a million different ways. And I have a job I really love. And I live in a place where Im surrounded by nature, which for me is my close connection to God.
Q: You have such a great body—whats your exercise regimen like?
—Megan Brown, Raleigh, N.C.
Sheryl: I try to do something every day thats sports-related, and I like to be outside. I love riding my bike, and playing tennis, and paddle surfing. I dont love going to the gym, but Ill do it if its rainy.
Next Page: Secret to beautiful skin [ pagebreak ]
Jack GuyQ: You always look so young. Whats your secret?
—Rachel Westerfield, St. Louis
Sheryl: To be perfectly honest, genetics. My mom has really beautiful skin. Aside from that, Id say trying to purge myself of stress.
But I definitely am embracing aging. When you shoot your face with Botox and stuff, you rob yourself of your ability to have youthful expressions, and thats why sometimes people look a lot older.
And when you get plastic surgery, you start to look like everybody else: the big lips, the weird thing in the middle of your face where youve got fillers, and your eyebrows are up a little. I also have never spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. So as far as I know, I look like Im 24, which is how I feel.
Q: What are your guilty pleasures?
—Marianne McConaghy, Sun City, Ariz.
Sheryl: [laughs] Lays potato chips and Greys Anatomy.
Q: You were a backup singer on tour with Michael Jackson in the late ‘80s. What did you learn about fame—how to handle it, or maybe what not to do?
—Veronica D. Brown, Camp Springs, Md.
Sheryl: I wasnt famous at the time, so for me to witness what he went through, it would never have occurred to me that that would ever apply to my life. But the kind of fame that he had to endure—or, I guess at times, got to enjoy—isnt the norm. None of that is relatable to me.
But I learned so much from watching him, about professionalism, about uniqueness, about artistry—things that set him apart from the rest of us. And it was a gift that I got to be witness to his greatness for 18 months. I got to see some of the crazier stuff, too—the fans, the kind of undoing of his identity and the re-doing of his identity, and how lonesome that must have felt.
Q: Im coming up on 40 and single but have always dreamed of being a mom. What questions did you put to yourself to make sure you were ready?
—Melissa Bigner, Charleston, S.C.
Sheryl: Not questions, necessarily. I had to let go of this picture Id always painted about my life, about how it was going to be set up with a husband, a house, and all that. At the time I was considering adopting, everything else had sort of not worked. When you let go of the story you tell, a lot of times it creates a whole world of expansion for other things to come in. And I always knew that I wanted to be a mom, so I just had great faith that when that little person found me, that I would be ready and everything would be fine.
Q: If there was one piece of wisdom you could make sure your child has in his heart and could carry into the world, what would it be?
—Joan Steffend, Edina, Minn.
Sheryl: Respect is huge—respect for the planet and honoring and loving this organism that sustains all of us. And try to make every decision out of compassion, which encompasses how you treat the planet and every person.
Q: Your songs have helped me through heartache and loss in my life. What are the songs that you have looked to for inspiration when youre feeling down?
—Jessi Nelson, Brighton, Mich.
Sheryl: Its amazing to hear that, because at the heart of it all I still feel like just a normal person from Missouri, and the fact that what Im doing impacts anybody that I dont know is very awe-inspiring. Ill tell you a funny story. Yesterday, I took Wyatt to My Gym, which is like Gymboree. And there was a version of “When You Wish Upon a Star” by,
I think, Take 6 on. And it just slayed me. I find that now the songs that I go to are songs that I grew up with like “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Its comforting to me as a mother, and its comforting to me as a human being, that there is something bigger than myself out there.
Next Page: Sheryl's morning routine [ pagebreak ]
Q: You seem to have such a happy disposition, whats your morning routine like to get the day started in a positive direction?
—Heather Milam, Birmingham, Ala.
Sheryl: I meditate, so I try to get up before Wyatt gets up. If I dont, then usually after breakfast and reading and activities with Wyatt, Ill take him down to the barn, and I have a great farm manager who rides him around on the tractor or gets him busy feeding the chickens, and Ill sneak off and meditate for 20 minutes. Then I usually work out around 10 or 11. My morning ritual is pretty much about Wyatt, because I work in the afternoon.
Q: Whats the biggest risk youve ever taken, and were you glad you did?
—Heather L. Holloway, New York, NY
Sheryl: Physically, jumping off a cliff that was about 60 feet into water.
It was in Hawaii, for the video to “Soak Up The Sun.” That was terrifying, but its funny, the year I turned 40, I learned how to surf, I got out my dirt bike and started doing motocross again, and jumped off a couple of cliffs. And it was all ridiculous, but it made me feel really alive and exhilarated.
Q: What do you do to live a greener life? If theres one environmental action you could get others to take, what would it be?
—Alice Chan, Rockville, MD
Sheryl: My farm is solar, and it irks me that the government doesnt make it easier financially for people to be solar or wind-power-driven. Weve got to start hounding our government to make it more feasible financially for people to go green. I have hybrid cars. We dont use the dryer full blast, we dont run the dishwasher unless its totally full. I reuse my tin foil. I like to picture at the end of the day everything that Im sending off to a landfill. If you do that, you might be much more conscious on a daily basis.
Q: What's your no-fail strategy for calming your son down if he's cranky? Do you sing him a favorite song?
—Sally Amick-Russo, Holmdel, New Jersey
Sheryl: When he was really little, Id turn on “Shine Over Babylon,” which is on my last record, at a pretty good volume and hed relax and go to sleep. As hes gotten older, I tickle his face, around his ears, his head, his neck, down to his toes. That really calms him down and he loves it. And its funny because my housekeeper used to do it to me when I was little.
Q: You have a little guy–why dont you ever look tired? Im a mom of two, and Id love to know your secret!
—Brooke Ruddy, Johnston, Iowa
Sheryl: Maybe youve only seen pictures where I have lots of makeup on! When I wake up in the morning and see myself, I see a tired person a lot of times! But I think exercise really helps resurrect a tired body. I think getting the blood going is paramount.
Q:Do you feel like youve fulfilled your dreams at this point in your life?
—Valerie Davis, Dubuque, Iowa
Sheryl: No. I think the thing that continues to make me pursue the perfect song is the belief in myself that the best stuff is yet to come. As you pass through the next portal, you get some kind of understanding that the next stuff that you write is going to be more free and more truthful.