There are certain lights in the world that make even the darkest of times bearable.
In my life, that light shines brightest from the super star couple Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
Flash back to 2015. I’m laying in a hospital bed in the recovery ward after mastectomy surgery to remove a cancerous breast. The date coincided with the last day of my crowd funding campaign to promote my latest album, and I hadn’t told a soul about the cancer diagnosis that devastated all my plans.
A few minutes after waking up from anesthesia, I was using my “good” hand to peck out thank you notes on my phone to people who donated to the VIP Patrons campaign while I had been under the knife.
(P.S. if you got a typo filled thank you note from me, that’s why. haha)
The recovery room was empty except for one massive bouquet of flowers with a card attached that read “You are my hero. All my love and strength, Garth.”
That’s not the first or the last time I got flowers from Garth and Trisha.
The first time was at the birth of my twins back in 2001. The next time was the hospital bouquet, and the third time was at my dad’s memorial just a few months after my mastectomy.
You might think that’s incredible for a couple so busy with three kids of their own, and businesses employing hundreds of people – but that’s not the extent of Garth and Trisha’s kindness and generosity.
It may come as a surprise to some, but our Williams family struggled bitterly with opioid addiction. I was so afraid of becoming addicted to the pain killers after my surgery that I decided to embrace a challenging schedule requiring me to get off the pills no later than 11 days after the surgery.
In particular, I had been working with the local chapter of SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives, a division of the SBA Small Business Administration) who paired me with business mentor Mr. Lewis Moorer, former employee of Jack Welch at General Electric.
Mr. Moorer and Mr. Thompson, who was running SCORE at the time, along with another mentor Mr. David Tiller of SBA, had given me the coveted opportunity to speak to their leadership group at their regular quarterly enclave about my work teaching songwriting and intellectual property.
As rehearsed as my presentation is from years of delivering it to audiences, I knew there was no way to do a good job under the mind-numbing influence of those pills.
On the day of the talk, I got up and dressed for the presentation, covering my drainage tubes with a loose fitting blouse and wearing a sling on my “bad” arm to prevent anyone from hugging or accidentally hurting me.
It was a triumphant moment, for after the talk and short Q&A session was over, many people approached and told me it was among the best presentations they had ever seen.
I basked in the praise of my mentors, relieved that the excruciating ride to the Hillwood Country Club was not in vain.
On a lark, I sent a snapshot of my arm-slinged self to Garth telling him about my small, but for me, important victory, and didn’t think any more about it.
A few days later, I got a call from Trisha Yearwood’s assistant.
“Hi,” she said, “sorry for the late notice, but Trisha is having a ladies brunch at her house and would love for you to attend.”
Of course, I eagerly accepted.
The next day, I made the drive to the party at Trisha’s home where she tapes her cooking show.
The event was to honor and support women who have been battling cancer. Trisha’s mother passed away from cancer, and she is passionate about helping others find support and needed preventative therapies – including good, wholesome food to assist in the healing process.
Trisha greeted me when I arrived and laughed, “I didn’t think you would be out of recovery yet and well enough to come, but Garth said, ‘She’s up giving talks already! You better have her at the luncheon!’”
I was shown to a parlor waiting room where I sat quietly out of the way while Trisha spoke with reporters from People Magazine and other national and local media guests.
I listened intently to her expert handling of interviewer questions, including one moment when she greeted a question about Miranda and Blake Shelton’s recent breakup with stony silence. How classy, I thought. The reporter was falling all over herself to get to the next question, and I giggled internally at Trisha’s non-response, imaging the look she might have given the gal.
A moment or two later, a young woman came through the door and sat beside me. We exchanged pleasantries, and began talking about our individual journeys with cancer. All I knew was her first name, Lisa.
She had such a love light about her, and as she listened to my story, she began frowning.
After my surgery, I had been seeing only my reconstruction doctor for follow up to hopefully remove my drains and rebuild my chest.
Lisa was concerned with my overall recovery, “Why aren’t they having you see an oncologist?”
I told her that the reason I had the mastectomy instead of just removing the lumps was so that I would avoid radiation and chemotherapy.
Lisa told me of her own battle with cancer, and encouraged me to see an oncologist just to be safe. I think she could see I was having a hard time of it.
At the luncheon, we were seated next to each other with our little fancy place cards, and I felt lucky to have met such a caring new friend.
Trisha was amazing, assembling a table full of 20 or so ladies in various stages of cancer recovery. She encouraged us to talk to one another, and fed us a delectable lunch she had prepared of healthy recipes her mother enjoyed.
This all might seem very glamorous, but the truth is that there was nothing glamorous about my life at that point in time.
I had left Music Row and all its glory to homeschool my twins from 2nd to 8th grade, and had built a business with my partner that allowed me the flexibility to work and serve my clients.
The plan had always been to get the kids up through middle school, and then for them to attend public high school while I focused more time on my music career.
Ironically, the day they started freshman year is the day I found out I had cancer.
During this time, I had to deal with a lot of interpersonal family struggles, which had left me isolated and alone except for my partner and kids.
We had managed to eek out a modest living as we invested in our business and children, but there was no budget for luxury – or even a family vacation. All was work and grind and necessity.
It might surprise people to know that independent songwriters can only expect to earn about $87.00 per 5 million streams, so in spite of my success, we were still always on the edge financially, choosing to homeschool and build instead of racking up expensive day care and private school tuitions.
On this day at Trisha’s house, she sent me home (and all of us who were there) with a treasure. I know she doesn’t realize how much her gifts meant to me and our family at that time, but the Trisha Yearwood Cookware set she gifted me was sorely needed. I marveled at how fast water boiled in her beautiful pans. Incredible.
She also gave us a gift bag from JC Penney full of makeup and beauty care items, and a gift card for $150. It was a God-send. With that card, I was able to get the kids some new school clothes for their birthday. It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to do that for them, thanks to Trisha.
In that giftpack was a lipstick that I have now almost used up.
It’s one of those purply-pinks that I never would have chosen for myself, but it’s absolutely perfect and smells amazing.
Every time I use it, I think about Trisha and say a little prayer of gratitude for her.
It’s really hard for me to open up about this stuff – maybe because my dad was so private and secretive with his own constant medical struggles, or maybe from pride and not wanting to show weakness or need in what can be a ruthless industry – who knows.
All I know is that it is no exaggeration that if it weren’t for Trisha inviting me to that first luncheon, I might not have received the follow up care I needed to survive my cancer struggle.
Lisa, the woman who sat next to me at Trisha’s table, referred me to her doctor at Tennessee Oncology, and they were able to give me the follow up treatments and physical therapy I needed to thrive.
It turns out that Lisa is the head of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and we have kept in touch since meeting. In fact, she introduced me to the beautiful room at the CMHoF, standing underneath the world famous WSM radio tower where we would hold my daddy’s memorial service.
Trisha invited me to another luncheon years later, where I met even more incredible ladies including Laura Slater, Amanda Lee Cortese and Debbie Mitchell who are a constant source of joy and encouragement on their Instagram posts.
Away from the spotlights and cameras, Trisha Yearwood is a pillar of strength and loving grace – a force of good and kind generosity to all those around her.
If I haven’t said it enough, thank you, Trisha Yearwood. You saved my life in more ways than you can ever know. I aspire to be as you are, and to give so fully of the gifts that the Good Lord sends my way –
And to shine a light on that beautiful, radiant being that is Trisha Yearwood Brooks.
Trisha, if you’re reading this, I love you, and I’m sorry I “fake smiled” in your group picture.
My insides are still twisted up and it’s tough to smile without showing too much of my teeth until I get more comfortable in my skin – this skin that’s hurting and stretching and confused. You make it better. You make me strong. I love you, gal. Garth is a lucky man to have found you, and the smartest thing he has ever done (and he’s done a lot of really smart things over the years) is to hold on to you.
So that’s the story of how Trisha Yearwood and a new lipstick saved my life.
P.S. I’m going to get another one of those lipsticks soon. I’ll tell ‘em Trisha sent me.
In case you want to buy some of Trisha's awesome gifts to enjoy for yourself or a special friend, here's a list with links: