BOOKS & MUSIC

How Fighting Brain Cancer Led Me To The CMA Awards

Many country music artists are famous for their talent and their humble, kind personalities. Musicians are well known for giving their time, donations, and supporting different charities around the world.

Many are involved with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that just celebrated the 30-year anniversary of Country Cares, one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in radio history that has raised more than $800 million.

Country Cares began in 1989 when Alabama lead singer Randy Owen challenged the country music community to rally around St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Through Country Cares, musicians visit the hospital and meet children battling cancer.

“St. Jude kids and country music have so much in common…,” said the late Danny Thomas, founder of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, “reminding us of the importance of love and laughter in the face of pain … the necessity of faith against huge odds.”

A Country Cares event.

As a St. Jude patient, I have met more than 33 country music stars. One of my favorite experiences began at a Country Cares event in January of 2015. I was 16 and had recently finished 33 rounds of treatment for brain cancer.

This treatment did not cause all of my hair to fall out – just a portion. I could still cover the spot with the hair I still had. Because of this (and a fake spray tan), I did not look like the rest of the patients at the event.

This did not phase me until country music star, Kelsea Ballerini, walked up and said “Hey you look familiar. What songs do you sing?” She thought I was an artist participating in Country Cares.

When I told her I was a patient, we both laughed, talked the rest of the night, and created an ever-lasting friendship. A few months later in July, 2015, my brain cancer relapsed, and I had to go through more surgery and treatment.

Less than two days after recovering from surgery, I came home to find Kelsea Ballerini and our friend, Megan Boardman, waiting there to surprise me. We hung out and did fun things that normal friends would do, making me feel so special and loved.

As I continued my treatment and lost all of my hair, Kelsea posted a video on YouTube asking me to be her date for the Country Music Association awards in Nashville. The CMAs are a televised event that almost every country music star attends. Of course I agreed to be her date, then got to experience the best night of my life.

Allie Allen and country music star Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea was nominated for an award, so we were sitting up front in the third row around other famous country stars and celebrities. It was an experience of a lifetime. 

She and I remain in-touch, and I have bonded with many other country stars. Getting the chance to see how busy people in the country music industry are amazes me that they make time to support St. Jude and many other charities.

The definition of the word “soul” is an emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance. Country music creates feelings, emotions, enthusiasm, and inspiration, all synonymous with the word “soul.” This is what country music is to the South.

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