Rocker Heather Reid Discusses Her Cancer Journey, Co-Parenting, and Broadway Musicals

As one half of the chart-topping alt rock duo The Murmurs (founded with Leisha Hailey), Heather Reid blew audiences away all throughout the 90s, touring with artists like Bush, Joe Jackson, and Adam Ant, as well as gracing the stage of Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair.

Other musical projects soon followed, a new band, Redcar and a deeply personal solo album (2014’s Cross Words) and songwriting projects that became Shakira’s hit “Don’t Bother” and commercials for companies from Christie’s to Old Navy. Reid also exploded into the musical theater world as the writer of Dear Bernard, a sold-out smash hit in L.A.

Reid has had a personal journey that’s also been filled with a series of twists and turns. She co-parents twin boys with her ex-wife Brooke and her partner who live around the corner from Reid and her wife, Allison. In 2018, just days after she and Allison were married, Reid was side swiped with news about the state of her health and went into intensive treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. After several months of chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant, she is healthy and con-siders herself healed. Reid recently released a single, “Right Here Right Now” based on her recent challenging journey.

Today, she sits down to talk about music, parenting, health – and how her experi-ences have made her more aware and grateful.

It’s been a tumultuous few years with a lot of ups and downs – from get-ting married to battling cancer. How are you doing now?

Considering everything I have been through on my health journey, I am feeling quite well. I live every day in deep gratitude and I’m ok with a few uncomfortable side effects as a price to get to be here with the people I love. It’s all about raising my frequency, though I can’t ever imagine a day when I lose sight of the blessings I’ve been granted in this lifetime. I always check in with my inner strength, which is what “Right Here Right Now” (my new song) is about. I work raising my energy daily in my meditations. Yes, it’s been a crazy couple of years and a roller coaster of a life but this is the hand I was dealt and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

In a recent article you penned, you discussed how your cancer journey has changed your perspective. Having been on that journey, how would you advise people experiencing similar challenges?

That’s a tough one. When my body got diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leuke-mia), I was the one looking for someone like me to answer that same question. Strangely, we didn’t have to reach too far beyond our 6 degrees of friends to find someone who had experienced a similar diagnosis. This person also received a bone marrow transplant when it was a new thing to try (around 10 years or more ago) for a cure. I wanted to hear her story, but I also didn’t. I was so in my head at that time and I was afraid to hear any negative information. It was taking all the strength I had inside of me to face what my doctor told me was coming.

Brooke (my ex) actually made the call for me. The call ended up being very hope-ful. This kind and brave woman expressed that her journey gave her a new appre-ciation for life. I don’t want to quote her, but Brooke also shared that this woman would do it all over again because of the beautiful ways she views her life now – knowing what’s important and being more present than ever. Whether that was what she said or heard and whether or not it was true, there was a nugget in there that I rejected and embraced all at the same time.

So, back to your question: what would I share with someone who received a scary diagnosis? Stay in the moment. You are not your body’s diagnosis. Get ready to fight, and know that the love in your heart can be your greatest ally and weapon against disease!

What inspired you to write your new song “RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW?”

This song was inside of me waiting to surface. When I came home and finally started pressing the keys on my piano again, I found that an acceptance of my cir-cumstance was needing to be voiced. So I wrote a few songs about my experience that I would consider more like journal entries – just for me. I had to get the sad-ness out and one of the ways I often get things off of my chest is by writing songs (ha, obviously).

Then, my friend Leanna (who happens to be on the board of the Phase One Foun-dation for Cancer Research) reached out to me. She told me they’d like me to per-form and use my story as an inspiration at their annual fundraising gala. It was Leanna and her incredible Phase One Foundation team who connected me with Dr. Forman and the brilliant team at City of Hope where I got my treatment. I had worked creatively with Phase One in the past way before my body’s diagnosis. An-yway, when Leanna mentioned the words “to inspire,” something clicked for me and I realized how I wanted to express my strength through the song I was about to write.

The chorus represents who I’ve always been, even through the darkest of moments in my life. I always look for the good. It goes back to your first question. I know who I am and I know that the energy of love that lives inside of me will lift me where and when I need it to. It’s a song about being present, acknowledging fear (which can be paralyzing), and recognizing the power and strength that exists in-side of us when we need it to survive and or surpass unimaginable circumstances.

You and your ex-wife have decided to co-parent very closely; you and your wife live right around the corner from your ex and her partner, and all of the adults seem to have a great relationship. What’s your secret?

Brooke and I were together for about 10 years when we decided to have kids. We worked very hard to bring these two beautiful souls onto the planet. There was no way I was going to add the story of them having grumpy parents to their journey. That’s how I grew up (with my mom and dad) and it wasn’t good. So Brooke and I had to move past our challenges. It definitely didn’t happen overnight, and both of us had to make tough compromises – but the inspiration was easy: we wanted the boys to have happy, fantastic times with all of us together. I’m still very much a kid at heart, so on a selfish level, I never want to miss out on a Halloween party, a Christmas morning, birthday, Easter egg hunt, or any fun family holiday. So we don’t. We figure it out; we forgive and forget the small stuff and sort out the big-ger things as best we can. Just like all parents do.

As for our partners: Allison is my dream come true. I waited my whole life to be with her. She has known the boys since they were 4; they don’t’ remember not knowing her. It’s so cute – she’s their “Ally”. She’s a soft-spoken, creative, angel of a love. She’s an incredible athlete, which they love, and wonderful role model to them. Brooke and her partner, Jessie, are sporty too. Brooke is our fun, smart, “can do the math no one else can,” sommelier, run-the-company, kind of gal. Jessie rough and tumbles with the boys and grounds them with positivity and Philly hu-mor. We all make it work. If things sometimes break down, we fix them as best we can and keep moving forward. I think of us as a non-traditional non-traditional family. It’s beautiful and I feel beyond blessed. I’m happy for our boys.

As a follow up to your past musical theater work, you’re in the process of working on two more projects. Can you tell us about them?

Right now I can only chat about one of my projects as we are still working on get-ting the rights to the other story. My current musical is called The Show Must Go On. The book writer is my dear friend Nicholas Coster. We met at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC in 1990, and he’s a gem. Nick and I came up with this idea over a decade ago. It’s set in Old Hollywood – the end of the big studio era when being gay could ruin your life and not just your career. But it’s mostly a story about how friendships can turn into family and the price of fame if you choose to pay with your integrity. The original title was Secrets and Scandals, but we wanted something more uplifting. We call it a new old-school musical. My song writing style has always leant towards pop but I’m hugely inspired by the great old musical scores; they just make me feel happy inside. There’s a line in one of our show’s big chorus songs: “I suddenly feel like I belong.” I think that sums up a lot of what the musical is about. When you get that feeling, it’s magical.

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