Award-winning songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Mary Sue Englund has graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for more than a dozen years. A Minnesota native, this passionate tunesmith has penned four full-length albums to date, and is finishing her fifth. But her world was rocked to the core when her mother – with whom she is uncommonly close – was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2009.
A very involved co-survivor, Mary Sue shares with us what it’s like Living the NOU (new + you) Life.
Tell us a NOU way you do an old thing having supported your mom through her cancer journey.
When my mother was diagnosed, she wasn’t given a very rosy prognosis. And I immediately became a five year-old, not wanting to lose my mommy. And life was further complicated by the fact that my mom’s chemo made her very sick.
Immediately, everything changed in my music. All I wanted to write were songs that would encourage and help. I call it healing music. And all my concerts changed from “look at me” to “look at you.” I want to ask every member of my audiences, “How can we help you?”
I think of myself as a vessel, doing what I’m supposed to do at any given time. One day, my mom called to tell me she had just gotten good test results. I decided I wasn’t going to worry about the future. I went for a run and wrote what has become my song “Just for Today.”
Based on what you learned about the beauty of life as a co-survivor, what’s a NOU thing you’d like to try?
I’d love to live without worry and learn to throw caution to the wind. I grew up Catholic, and not worrying is not a lesson they teach!
I’d also like to be better at exercising hope and imagining only good things. You have to actively picture good things to make that happen.
What’s the best part of your NOU relationship with your mom?
We absolutely treasure every single moment. We’ve both become very slow to anger. My mom has become her first priority and I don’t want to waste one moment with her.
I live in an old Victorian house on Nashville’s Music Row. As we were renovating, I fell through the floor. I felt my life flashing in front of me. At the end of the day, I broke my back. But when I woke up and realized I survived, I was ecstatic. We need to wake up everyday and feel that kind of gratitude. And we must all realize we have something important to give to the world.
Tell us the ways your joint cancer journey created the NOU you.
Being faced with a limited number of days you can spend with someone you love changes your whole perspective. It’s easy to take life for granted. So I actively seek out my mom just to talk. I so value our time together and I’m there for her 100%.
What’s your 2nd Act?
Without a doubt, My 2nd Act is touring with my healing concerts. I love spreading good and writing healing books. People often struggle with they’d prefer a loved one dying instantly or going slowly. I’ve already been down the first path. My sister was murdered 20 years ago and I never got a chance to say goodbye. I’ve learned what a gift time really is. And I am grateful for every day my mom and I get to spend together.
Learn more about Mary Sue’s Work at I Am a Woman Survivor.