Entertainment Music Country Britney Spears' Former Back-Up Singer Kiley Dean Recalls Breast Cancer Battle and Recovery: 'I Can't Die Today' "When they told me, I literally lost my hearing," she tells PEOPLE of the moment she learned she had breast cancer By Tricia Despres Published on April 21, 2022 07:35 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Kiley Dean. Photo: Matt Bacnis Singer Kiley Dean long lived her life just on the edge of the spotlight. A backup singer for the likes of artists such as Madonna, Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, Dean found the light to be just bright enough for her liking, offering her the chance to make her childhood dreams come true via the mere sound of her voice. But just a few years back, that light began to dim. Basking in the happiness of her 2015 marriage to fellow musician Mason McSpadden and their shared bliss over their subsequent move to Nashville, Dean was loving life and loving her decision to take a much-deserved break from the career that had her spending nearly 20 years on the road. At the very same time, Dean was also flourishing in her role as a mother when she noticed something strange while breastfeeding daughter Sully in the summer of 2019. Kiley Dean. Matt Bacnis Kacey Musgraves Recalls Bringing Her Actual Grandpa to Her 'Fantasy Grandpa' Willie Nelson's Poker Night "I felt a lump," Dean, now 40, tells PEOPLE in a revealing interview. "I had breastfed her for two years. I had heard when people breastfeed for that long, it's supposed to take your percentages down exponentially. Plus, nobody in my family has ever had any type of cancer. So, I just knew it couldn't be cancer." But it was. A mammogram taken at the Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown Center for Breast Health in Nashville, Tennessee resulted in the need for a biopsy that determined that the singer/songwriter from Arkansas who seemingly had it all…now also had cancer. "When they told me, I literally lost my hearing," Dean remembers of the devastating news. "I couldn't hear for like a minute. I just went completely deaf." She pauses. "I had just turned 37 years old. I was ready to go back to work. I was ready to do all the things, but that wasn't going to happen." Kiley Dean. Matt Bacnis Surgery was soon scheduled, and amongst a flood of options, Dean made the decision to undergo a full mastectomy to treat what doctors thought at that point was Stage 2B cancer in her left breast. But there was more to discover. Dean was pregnant again. "It was then that I decided to do a singular mastectomy, because I still wanted to breastfeed if I could," Dean remembers. "So, my parents came in on a Sunday, and that was the day I miscarried. Not only was I preparing to lose a part of my body, but now I was losing a piece of my heart." There was no time to mourn. "I had to get this cancer out of my body," says Dean of the surgery, which ultimately determined that the cancer was actually at Stage 1A. In 2020, Dean completed chemotherapy, but not before she was faced with one emergency after another, as her body rejected the expander placed in her left breast. She also found herself in severe anaphylactic shock because of her second round of chemo. Michelle Tenpenny Talks New Music, Finding Love and Planning His Wedding — or Not! 'Biggest Procrastinators' "I just passed out and started having seizures and they couldn't wake me up and couldn't find my pulse," recalls Dean, whose darkest moments come up through some of the songs on her 2021 EP Overcome. "I woke up in the ER and all that I could say was my daughter's name. And as I was blacking out, I said, I can't die today … my daughter's turning 3 tomorrow." Eventually, doctors discovered that Dean was allergic to one of the chemo drugs being given to her, and eventually, she recovered, leaving her nothing but time to finally mourn the loss of her second pregnancy. And as the healing continued, so did her drive to make music again. Dean's distinctive voice is currently featured on the new single "What If We Loved" alongside the voices of fellow Nashville artists Ryan Prewett and Tyler Flowers. "Music is medicine," says Dean, who is now cancer-free but will continue with treatment that will keep her "hormone levels at bay for 10 years." "When it's something that you love and it's something that you're put on this earth to do, God keeps it in your life. And now, here I am, sprinkling little pieces of my cancer story into my music to help others."