Crystal Taliefero is no stranger to adversity.
Her life has been a roller coaster of lessons — from being discovered by John Mellencamp during her college years at Indiana University to life on the road with Billy Joel since 1989, to being hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as rock 'n' roll’s “Best Secret Weapon” and featured in the documentary “Rock ’N’ Roll Guns for Hire: The Story of the Sideman."
But her most humbling experience came in early 2020 when she received the devastating news that her doctor found breast cancer.
“I was overwhelmed, initially,” Taliefero said. “I went for my routine yearly checkup like always and (was) informed I was nearly stage 3 triple negative breast cancer and that I needed to do two aggressive chemo treatments immediately, which they hoped would freeze the cancer and allow me to undergo surgery. It was touch and go with becoming neutropenic several times – severe enough to be hospitalized for several days at a time.”
Taliefero acknowledges her checkup saved her life. Her doctor disclosed had she waited any longer, there might not have been many favorable options. Fortunately for Taliefero, Joel’s tour was put on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and she had plenty of time to focus on her health.
“God always has a plan,” she said. “I was blessed to have family and friends surround me with encouragement and support. My daughter Kodee (Lewis) and cousin Pat (Millard) were angels for me.”
After months of highly aggressive chemotherapy coined “Devil’s Juice,” as well as Taxol, Taliefero underwent a successful double mastectomy at her doctor’s stalwart encouragement. After losing her mother Audrey to breast cancer in 2015, Taliefero said there wasn’t a single doubt as to what she needed to do.
“I have an all-new perspective on life,” Taliefero said. “Things I feared before absolutely mean nothing now. I spend my days doing what I want to do and refocusing on things I was afraid to do before.”
Taliefero even created her "Bedroom Recovery Video Series" in early March, in which she performs inspiring and uplifting songs like “Walking on Sunshine,” “My Sweet Lord” and “Sing a Simple Song.”
“Music is a universal language and a bond between us because it offers healing,” Taliefero said. “I needed to build my voice and my body up again, and the 'Bedroom Recovery Series' was a way to do that while lifting others that may need motivation and inspiration on their journey.”
Taliefero also has been sharing her story in hopes that people hear its message and reevaluate their own personal health journey.
“I know there’s a lot of uncertainty out there and we can overthink things, but I’m going to continue to keep encouraging friends and family to get their vaccines and their yearly checkups,” Taliefero said. “We have a responsibility to take care of each other, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have my family, friends and fans share encouraging words and notes. That means the world.”
Taliefero spends her days in her studio in Nashville waiting for that phone call telling her to get ready to get back on the road.
“They won’t have to tell me twice because I’m ready,” she said.