Donna Lewis Revisits 'Dark Days' Battling Breast Cancer: 'My Music Became My Therapy' (Exclusive)

The 'I Love You Always Forever' hitmaker was diagnosed with stage 2A HER2+ breast cancer in 2021 after having missed her mammogram during COVID

<p>Rachel Brennecke</p>

Rachel Brennecke

  • Donna Lewis recently released her album Rooms with a View

  • The "I Love You Always Forever" had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 and kept journals throughout her treatment

  • When it came time to write the new record, Lewis says "lyrics kept flooding out"

Back in 2021, Donna Lewis had every intention of unabashedly celebrating the 25th anniversary of her mega-hit "I Love You Always Forever." But instead, the legendary songwriter and artist found herself fighting breast cancer.

"I did not know there was anything wrong," Lewis, 64, tells PEOPLE in a recent interview from her home in New York. "I felt fine. I felt no lumps. I felt nothing. It was a shock."

Not only was it a shock, but Lewis says that it was a diagnosis that left her with a feeling of guilt. "I always used to get my mammogram on a regular basis, and I missed my mammogram during COVID," explains the iconic singer. "Of course, when I did go for my mammogram, there was something. And that word ‘cancer’ is just so frightening when you first hear it."

From there, there were ultrasounds and biopsies that ultimately determined that Lewis had stage 2A HER2+ breast cancer in one breast, a diagnosis that rocked the otherwise strong woman to her core.

"I had two tumors," remembers Lewis. "I mean, it's important to be screened regularly. I know if I'd have gone for my mammogram, I probably would have just had to take a pill that destroys the estrogen. But I had to go through chemo, surgery and radiation."

<p>Rachel Brennecke</p> Donna Lewis

Rachel Brennecke

Donna Lewis

Related: Lisa Lisa, '80s Pop Icon, Says She Had to Hide Breast Cancer on Tour: 'My Mom Didn't Even Know'

Specifically, Lewis began a grueling 12 weeks of chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"I've always been the kind of person that never liked to take any medication if I didn’t have to," says Lewis, who also endured another targeted treatment to block the HER2 positive receptors every three weeks for a year following her diagnosis. "If I have a headache, I don't take anything. And so, for me, [chemo] was a huge thing. I felt like I was healthy and fit and now I've got to put all this poison into my body to keep me alive."

And then there was the surgery.

"I decided on the double mastectomy even though cancer was in only one breast," says Lewis, who then endured five weeks of radiation about six weeks after her surgery. "I just wanted to be done with it. I decided not to go for reconstruction either. I just wanted to get this over with and then get on with my life. All the cancer was taken away."

<p>Rachel Brennecke</p> Donna Lewis

Rachel Brennecke

Donna Lewis

What didn’t go away was Lewis' creative drive. In fact, it was that creativity that helped her through the hardest parts of the journey to healing.

"There were dark days, I have to say," she admits. "I kept this journal through my treatment and when [producer] Holmes Ives sent me these instrumental tracks, I was reading through my journals and these lyrics kept flooding out."

Related: Interview: Donna Lewis's Brand New Day

Indeed, these lyrics would eventually turn into songs that now live on Lewis’ new album Rooms with a View, a somewhat experimental-feeling, electronica showcase that indirectly tells the story of her cancer fight through some dark and some illuminating songs such as "Imposter," "The Messenger" and the striking title track "Rooms with a View." "My music became my therapy," she says. "The writing and the recording of this album really became a lifeline for me. It was extremely healing."

Nevertheless, the journey was a rough one.

"There are times when you just don't want to eat," Lewis explains. "You've lost your appetite. You have a mouth full of mouth sores, you have nosebleeds, I mean, all sorts of things. But now, I just need to listen to my body. Right now, I feel good. I feel like myself. I'm doing my music. I'm doing everything I need to do to live my life and I'm happy."

<p>Rachel Brennecke</p> Donna Lewis

Rachel Brennecke

Donna Lewis

Related: See How These Breast Cancer Survivors Turned Their Mastectomy Scars Into Art with Stunning Tattoos (Exclusive)

It’s a life that Lewis says she also looks at differently now.

"None of us know when our last day is going to be in this world," says Lewis, who now serves as an ambassador for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the United States' largest and most impactful breast cancer movement.

"The fact is so many women go through breast cancer. It's ridiculous. One in three women. You're always a little bit nervous going in for your checkups because you want everything to be clear. But life goes on. And I do feel with cancer, trying to be happy in your life is everything."

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Read the original article on People.