Fifteen Years Cancer Free and Counting!

Writing my way through breast cancer.

Writing my way through breast cancer.

If you’ve come to one of my shows post-breast cancer, it’s likely that you’ve witnessed one of my ‘public service announcements’ where I tell the quick version of the story of how I found this tiny lump in my breast in late 1998. It was no bigger than a lentil and rather hard to find but you could feel it.

I went to my regular gynecologist and he too could feel it and so ordered a mammogram. The results of that test showed nothing. My doctor advised me to wait and watch and maybe not drink too much coffee. This was not good advice.

What I came to learn the hard way, is that anytime you can feel a lump, regardless of whether or not you can see it on a mammogram, it is essential that some other method of diagnosis be engaged to actually determine that it is not cancerous.

Unfortunately, many young medical students are trained to be conservative about testing. It seems the medical system we have in the US is often propelled and dictated to by the insurance companies and the drug companies.

In spite of this I was lucky that my stage 2 breast cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes.  So after a successful lumpectomy and chemo and radiation and a whole lot of other complimentary healthy regimes I was able to heal back into wellness.

Ladies~keep checking!

One of the elixirs that became a staple of my healing-soothing foods was this broth that my friend Gabrielle taught me to make from kale.   Don’t grimace! Kale would have been the last thing on my mind in those days. I always liked it but many things I normally liked were meeting a brick wall in my system during chemo.

Gabrielle’s broth, it turns out, was more that a comfort food with good properties. It actually was a super duper liver supporting, natural cleansing and replenishing wonder-soup! So I’ve formally named it
“Gabrielle’s Wonder Soup”

Get a big bunch of organic kale. Fresh & organic!!

Put it in a large stainless steel pot

(get rid of toxic tephlon!)

Add a cup or two of water and put a good cover on the pot

The kale doesn’t need to be submerged…it’ll steam down into it

Bring it to a boil and let the kale steam and simmer on low flame for a while.   10 minutes or so.

If you want to eat the kale you can just put a couple inches of water and only steam a few minutes …still save the water to drink as it’s got great stuff in it!

If you’re just making broth let the kale empty out it’s flavor into the water and then you can discard the mushy kale.

To this broth you add drops of Ume Plum Vinegar. This is to taste…so taste as you go. It’s pretty salty…so try a bit and taste your way to what seems right. You also splash some toasted sesame oil into this brew.

If you’re going with the “eat the kale” version of this you’d splash Ume Plum Vinegar first on the leaves to taste and then some toasted sesame oil. Then for a really amazing thing you can add toasted sesame seeds that have been slightly cracked.

The Ume plum is one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet.   Gabrielle had me go buy the ume plum paste just to get it into my body during my recovery. But everyone would benefit from this amazing stuff.   Again, it’s very salty, but powerful stuff! Great to just spread on crackers and veggies too!

Vinegar is fermented and that’s not the best thing to put in the body during treatment. I learned it’s much better to stay with foods that keep up the level of “alkaline” as opposed to “acid”. Ume plum vinegar feels and tastes fermented but it’s not.   So this was a great way to get my jones and avoid balsamic vinaigrette, which was working against the tide of my health.

Ok…so you make a slew of this liquid gold. I would sip it warm from a very fancy wine glass as if it were very expensive stuff!

I still love having it and I’m convinced that my liver was greatly helped during the onslaught of chemicals that it had to process. My recovery time from chemo was record breaking!  So if you’re going through it –consider the “Gabrielle’s Wonder-Soup!

Today I send my love out to all the women faced with breast cancer.  Hang in there sisters!  We are all part of a club we didn’t sign up for voluntarily but here we are. Some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met have come come through this journey. I’m so grateful to those who inspired me and held my hand through the dark days.  You know who you are~thank you!  xoxo


  • Andrew Plane says:

    My son and I met you after your show at Langholm in the Scottish Borders. We had recently scattered my wife’s ashes on our favourite beach in Northumberland reading out the words of ‘Sand and Water’. You sang that to finish the first half of your concert and we took some time to recover. Talking to afterwards you counselled about the concept of the spiral of grief which has been very helpful. My son Michael is married to his partner Mark. It is a very good marriage. Nearly two years ago I also married a family friend in a thirteenth century church set in a Roman camp overlooking the river Conwy. Thank you for your words and songs, we particularly enjoy ‘In the Harbour of each other’s arms’.

  • Sue Gill says:

    Hi Beth,
    I cannot believe it’s so long ago, I remember hearing you were ill, and was very sad about it,
    but you’ve made a marvellous recovery and look just amazing, and I am so pleased to have
    your music in my life ever since we first saw you in 1999 at Tatton with JT, I knew you were a
    special person as soon as I heard you sing….I can’t believe it’s 7 years this time since you came
    to Emmanuel Church to sing can you????? Where did that go???

    My friend had breast cancer ten years ago, and was given the all clear about a year ago, but
    she now has it in all her main organs, and can barely walk around, she is only 52, and this
    terrible disease will get the better of her and we can’t help, it is heartbreaking, life can be very
    cruel at times……

    I hope you have an amazing gig in the UK next week, I’ll be in Seville so can’t be with you, but
    the concert you did in March in Huddersfield was out of this world, literally…

    So thanks Beth for being you and giving us so much happiness over the years, where would we
    be without your lovely music…….thanking you…

    Sue Gill

  • Chelle Samford Foster says:

    You played and sang at my wedding in June of 1977. I loved your music then and still do. Glad to hear you are well.

    Best Wishes
    Chelle Foster

  • Hilary says:

    Just been to your concert in The Maltings, Snape. It was great! But I was with two friends one of whom has just got over Breast Cancer and the other one lost her husband in a tragic car crash a few years ago. So there was a lot of tears in our three seats at several of your songs! But it’s so healing!
    Many thanks. Hilary

    • BNC says:

      Thank you so much for sharing that with me Hilary! I’m truly honored to be a part of anyone’s healing! Stay well! ;0

  • Tracy A says:

    Hi Beth,

    I first saw you when you opened for Dan Fogelberg years ago. I immediately went out and bought Beth Nielsen Chapman and You Hold the Key. Listened to the WHEELS off those CDs!

    So glad you are feeling good and 15 years cancer free. Be well, my friend.


  • Allen Rippe says:

    My Mom, Esther, in 1972, had breast cancer discovered, first on one side, then the other, our dear aunt Sonia, (my daughter’s name-sake) had just passed from breast cancer. Post double mastectomy, I talk to my Mom, every week, as she is 95, and sharp.

    May 120 years be yours Beth! And may your audience enjoy your music even longer!

    • BNC says:

      Thanks Allen…Glad to hear you Mom’s sharp! I’m working on that sharp part! But glad to be alive and so grateful!
      🙂 bNC

  • Beth

    Your breast cancer I never knew about this. Glad you recovered and encouraged other women to get checked and even have their genetics checked with their siblings.

    I just found your CD and I’m listening to you again 🙂
    A coffee chain always played your music and thanks to your lyrics on your website I discovered YOU almost 20ys ago.

    Hope to see you perform or talk in NYC……..Love you and your voice


    • BNC says:

      Hi George! I’ll be teaching a songwriting workshop at Omega in upstate NY the first week of August and will also be doing a bit of Storytelling at St Anns in NY for a show called “The Moth” on Sept 15th! thanks for writing! :)BNC

  • Sara says:

    Thank you for “Sand and Water”. I recently lost my husband of 38 years to cancer, and while my heart is shattered, listening to music helps me get through the long nights. Sand and Water is my favorite right now.

    • BNC says:

      Sara…I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your husband. Thank you for letting me know that the music helps! xoxo

  • Lupe Cowger says:

    Hello Beth. So happy to hear you’re doing better and pray you remain cancer free. The first time I heard you sing (or even knew about you) was at a Dan Fogelberg concert my husband and I attended in Concord, CA, many years ago. Now, truth be told, we were not big fans of his but, my brother got us the tickets as an anniversary gift so we went. Am I ever so glad we did! I love your music. It has helped me through some rough times. Hope to see you out our way again sometime.

    Stay well.

  • Cindy says:

    I was sent this link from a friend. I realized that you rode the same bus as I did in the 70’s, Montgomery, AL – J.D. High School. I believe you also sang at Kegler’s Cove? Anyway, seems that I am now on the journey you went on with a Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis – lumpectomy, surgery, radiation next….I am thankful my lymph nodes were clean as were my margins. Here is a late congratulations on being cancer free – hope I get to join that club!

  • chris and marika says:

    Hi beth,
    Just Wanted to say a huge thank you for a wonderful evening last night (saturday 16th june) @ exeter phoenix. We came up with our good friends Eddie and shirley and you were kind enough to sign our CD’s and my autograph book after the gig. Marika’s daughter in law michelle had breast cancer last year but after a mastectomy, chemo, radiotherapy and other treatments michelle seems to be bouncing back to full health. You were trulty an inspiration to everyone and of course we love all your music. Take care, stay safe, enjoy your travels and happy trails to you.
    Lots of love,
    Chris and Marika xxx

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