Jo Dee Messina's Battle with Cancer Inspired Her New Music: 'I Have Hope in My Heart'
Jo Dee Messina, who was diagnosed with cancer last September, says her battle with the illness has inspired her new song, "Reckless Love"
The gravity of Jo Dee Messina’s cancer battle doesn’t necessarily hit her in the doctor’s office or in her bedroom when she lays her head down on the pillow after a long day.
Instead, it hits her sometimes in ordinary places, like her kitchen.
“Sometimes I need help getting dishes down from the shelf,” she admits during a recent interview with PEOPLE. “I let my kids see my weakness as much as I let them see my joy of life.”
It’s this juggling act that so many moms can relate to. Yet, in Messina’s case, it’s even more complicated considering the health struggles she continues to go through.
“I have wanted to be honest with the kids,” Messina — mom to sons Noah, 9, and Jonah, 6 — says quietly. “I want to be a safe place for them. But I have let them see the realness of the pain and the struggle of my surgery.”
It was September of 2017 when Messina shared the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with cancer.
“After being diagnosed, I was playing a winery in Missouri and I basically said ‘FYI, this is what’s going on,'” Messina, now 48, recalls. “It doesn’t change the fact that God is good.”
And while the “I’m Alright” hitmaker is still reluctant to go into much detail in terms of her diagnosis and the treatments she’s receiving, she admits that it has been quite the struggle.
“I’m leaning on God,” she says. “I’m letting Him take charge. It’s what’s best for my soul right now. Every biopsy and every result…it feels like an eternity goes by. I know that God has me. I’m filled with gratitude and joy.”
And it’s this gratitude and joy along with her unrelenting faith that has led to Messina to not only get back on the road, but also release new music in the form of her new single “Reckless Love.”
“I heard this song in 2017 as part of a package from Bethel Music and watched a version of it on YouTube,” she remembers of the song that was written by Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson. “This song took the wind out of me. It was then released to radio (by Asbury) and I was like, ‘It’s that song again.’ It resonates with my soul and my spirit, especially considering as many mistakes I have made.”
Messina’s past struggles have propelled her faith going forward into her future. And it is this faith that kept her strong through the recording process for “Reckless Love.”
“I’ve been in the studio in pain,” she says. “On certain days, it was hard to breath and I was barely able to stand up at the microphone.”
Yet, despite this, Messina has felt moved to ensure that people hear this song. “It tells the news that people need to know, that God provides a love that we will never understand,” she says. “Human love is so conditional. His love isn’t.”
Of course, Messina is the first to admit that she wonders if country radio will be open to playing such a faith-filled message.
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“A lot of people around me have been frightened to release it to the country format,” she says. “I don’t have that fear. There is someone out there that needs to hear it. I don’t care what is current or what is going to be successful, but country music is my home format. Why not share the message? God is not formatted.”
But for now, devoting energy to worries such as this is simply not worth it, Messina says. Instead, the mother of two remains steadfast in her battle with cancer.
“Today I am a little groggy,” she admits. “I teach music to kids ages 6 to 12 outside of Nashville and I had my surgery on Thursday. I was back teaching on Tuesday. I’m getting some of my energy back. I think I sound good. My hope is that I do. I have hope in my heart, so I am grateful.”
And while the road is uncertain, Messina knows she is meant for this moment.
“I know that I took the road I was supposed to take,” she says. “If I look back, I know that God has always been there. I want to make sure that people know that God is good.