Members of Alabama Share Their Personal Battles with Cancer and Parkinson’s Disease

Randy Owen, a beloved singer from Alabama, faced a terrifying moment when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The first question that popped into his mind was, “How long do I have?” His bandmate, Jeff Cook, the guitarist and fiddle player, also discovered he had the same form of cancer. Teddy Gentry, the bass player, experienced a scare as well, but thankfully, his test results came back healthy after a month of waiting.

“It was such an eerie feeling,” Gentry remarked. “But the truth is, it could happen to any of us at any time. We have no control over it, and it’s absolutely terrifying.”

Alabama, the legendary country music group, will be honored with the Tony Martell Lifetime Entertainment Achievement Award at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 11th annual Nashville Honors Gala. This recognition from the leading foundation that funds cancer research holds a special meaning for Alabama because every member of the group has been affected by cancer. In addition, Jeff Cook, who is currently battling Parkinson’s disease, will also be in attendance.

“When I think of Alabama, I think of America. They have touched so many people in this country through their music and their wonderful beliefs in helping others,” said Laura Heatherly, CEO of the T.J. Martell Foundation. “We love to honor and recognize people who have made incredible contributions to our community, and Alabama has undoubtedly impacted communities across the country.”

Alabama, celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2019, initially embarked on a farewell tour in 2003. Surprisingly, they discovered that their music still resonated with fans, leading to a reunion in 2011 for Brad Paisley’s hit song “Old Alabama.” Since then, Alabama has continued to make music and plans for the future.

During their break, both Randy Owen and Jeff Cook were diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, Cook had faith in his medical team and believed their assurance that he would be fine. Owen, on the other hand, faced a more intense battle. When he asked his doctor about his life expectancy, he was met with a stern response.

“He told me, ‘I refuse to work with you as long as you have that attitude,’” Owen recalls. “I was taken aback and asked him what he meant. He said, ‘I’m the ship’s captain now, and together we’re going to beat this.’ Those words gave me strength.”

The singer’s doctor suggested seeking treatment in Mexico, where a high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) procedure for cancer is commonly used. Unfortunately, this procedure was not available in the United States. Owen, accompanied by his wife and doctor, flew to Mexico for the treatment, which proved to be successful. Nine years later, Owen remains cancer-free.

Receiving the life-saving procedure in Mexico was a terrifying experience for Owen, but he believes it was the right decision. He emphasizes the importance of open discussions about prostate cancer and the need for regular PSA tests. Owen urges men not to be ashamed or avoid seeking help. He reminds us that we’re all human and susceptible to illness.

Owen’s commitment to cancer research extends beyond his own battle. As the founder of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, he has helped raise over $800 million for cancer research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. In recognition of his three-decade dedication to charity, a patient family room at the hospital was dedicated to Owen and his family.

Although Owen’s health has significantly improved, Jeff Cook’s battle with Parkinson’s disease continues. In 2017, the talented multi-instrumentalist revealed he had been diagnosed four years earlier and would no longer be able to tour regularly with Alabama.

However, through stem cell treatments, Cook experienced improvement in his guitar-playing abilities. He continues to receive treatments and performs whenever he feels well enough. His bandmates ensure that his equipment is always set up for him at concerts, allowing him to join in whenever he chooses.

Cook’s speech may occasionally be affected, but overall, he remains positive and enthusiastic about playing the guitar in the recording studio. In fact, he co-wrote the song “No Bad Days” for the band’s album “Southern Drawl,” a song that now holds new meaning for him.

Despite the personal battles they’ve faced, Alabama continues to inspire and touch the lives of their fans through their music. Their resilience and commitment to raising awareness for cancer research and Parkinson’s disease serve as a reminder that we are all united in our struggles and triumphs.

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