Marty Edwards has something critically important to say. It helps that he’s a great singer and can get up on stage to spread the word, with music to lighten the mood and a show coming up in Vernon, Monday.
Edwards has traveled across North America and Down Under with his Kenny Rogers tribute act. He not only sounds like Rogers, he’s the spitting image when dressed for the stage.
He’s also been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The first signs came in early August when he was preparing for a tour to Australia.
“I was feeling a bit tired, which I put down to getting old,” the 66-year-old Edwards told the Kelowna Capital News.
His regular check up and blood work looked fine but his doctor talked him in to doing the FIT test — an analysis of fecal matter.
“A lot of guys say, ‘Ah I don’t want to mess around with that,’ but this time I did it.”
The test came back showing two things: He was anemic and there was a little trace of blood in the stool, so small he had never noticed it.
“He told me to eat red meat a couple of times a week, gave me an iron supplement and booked a colonoscopy.”
The colonoscopy was carried out in January with a doctor who keeps his patients awake during the procedure. Edwards watched on screen as the camera threaded through his intestines. Then he started hearing some things you never want a doctor to say:
“‘Wow,’ he kept saying, and ‘oh, see that?’ he says. ‘That’s cancer.’”
The colonoscopy found three cancerous growths in different regions of Edwards’ colon and 40 to 50 polyps, something it turns out Edwards is genetically prone to produce.
Polyps have the potential to become cancerous if not treated.
“If you get it right away they can nip it out before they turn to cancer.”
Edwards figures if he had gone through with the screening when he was in his 50s, none of those polyps would have had a chance to turn into cancer and threaten his life.
And yet today, he feels lucky. The cancer had not metastasized outside the walls of his colon. His surgery, though it set him back with eight weeks of sometimes painful and uncomfortable recovery, was a complete success.
And now he’s back on stage, cancelled gigs rebooked but this time with a cause.
“I’m an evangelist for early detection,” Edwards said from his home in Peachland. “The key to this whole thing is to have early awareness. Colon cancer can be cured if you catch it early enough.
“I wanted people to know I’m back and also to raise an awareness. I’ve got friends who have colon or colorectal cancer that I never knew about because they never talked about it. I’m totally the opposite — I want people to know.”
Edwards’ producer and on-stage partners are all behind his efforts to bring awareness. And part of the proceeds from every one of his shows will go to the B.C. Cancer Foundation.
Performing with Edwards in shows through the Okanagan are “not just some of the best musicians in the Okanagan and Canada, but internationally. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians around the world, I’d never work with anyone else.”
That goes for “Dolly,” aka Wendy T whose hometown is Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the home of Dollywood.
“I’ve had offers for other tours with other Dollys, but I just say no. We have a great rapport, a real chemistry.”
Wendy T brings Parton’s persona and music to life, then does a quick change to bring the music, looks and personality of Reba McEntire to the stage.
For the Okanagan shows, expect the greatest hits from Rogers, Parton and McEntire, as well as a few Christmas classics.
The show at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Monday, Nov. 28 starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.