At the height of the pandemic, Patti LaBelle engaged in a daily ritual.
Shortly after she woke up, she got on her knees and thanked God — “again, and again, and again,” she says — for her health.
This too shall pass, she would remember as the… daily floods of death and illness permeated the TV news.
She also felt “blessed” at the time for avoiding illness and “grateful” for the socially distant contact she was able to maintain with friends.
On this day she is equally grateful.
“I can’t complain, honey,” she told USA TODAY. “You just always have to take the main road.”
Women of the century: Patti LaBelle, Taylor Swift Among Inspiring Women in Pennsylvania
LaBelle’s status as one of the greatest singers of all time – soul, gospel, R&B, pop – remains unabated. And while she is while working on new music, she currently focuses on health. Not just her own, which she regularly maintains at the age of 77. But adults, especially those over 40, need a push to be screened for common cancers like chest, colorectal, cervix, prostate, lung and skin.
LaBelle checked in from her home just outside of Philadelphia and talked about how cancer robbed her of her sisters, how she stays healthy, and what is cooked in her famous kitchen.
LaBelle on staying fit: Just before the pandemic, I had been given a treadmill. At age 77, I need to stay as active as possible, so I would (the treadmill). I would walk the little dog. I would step into the pool and kick with my legs. I cooked every day. On Mondays I would think about what I would cook for the whole week and go to the farmers market with my mask on. On Friday we would have a Pokeno game, a small group of four keeping their distance and eating crabs and still having fun but with 6 feet (space) in mind. Everyone around me would make sure I didn’t touch this or that.
The Time to Screen campaign is personal: I have so many reasons to remind people what to do at this time of their lives. I was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago and lost three sisters and close friends to cancers—lung, colon, and so many cancers—that weren’t screened as often as they should. They all died before they turned 50 and when I turned 50 that was a milestone for me because I survived without getting cancer. (At the beginning of the pandemic) people were afraid to go to the doctor and let their health go. It’s just so important for people to get screened… screening is the most important thing we need to catch (disease) early.
Focus on health: I started early, since I turned 50. After hearing and seeing my sisters going through so many terrible changes, of course I have (trying to stay healthy) not because I’m 77, but because I’d like to change. 78! I hope that many people in my life who know what I’m dealing with pay attention and get checked.
Screen time: Distance learning causes eye problems in children
Passing the torch: I see it a lot there, people who will continue our Queendom (laughs). Jennifer Hudson is doing it now with the Aretha (Franklin) movie (“Respect,” out Aug. 13). I love Pink. Billie Eilish. There are so many baby queens. We’ve laid out the path for you, now you come out and do it.
Her legacy: Hopefully, people will say, she was so honest. She didn’t hold back on what she didn’t like about you, but also didn’t hold back on why she loved you. She wasn’t afraid to step on toes because sometimes I had to. I get that from a lot of young girls – they thank me for putting on their coats and helping them on their way.
What’s cooking: Yesterday it was sautéed chicken with spinach and garlic and salad with coriander and Vidalia onions. Honey, I cook every day. Tonight we have leftovers – but I’m only keeping them overnight. I cook fresh as much as possible. I love being in the kitchen. It’s very purifying for me. I think of songs and shows and costumes. It frees my mind.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Patti LaBelle Advocates Cancer Screening in Time to Screen Campaign