Singer/songwriter Stewart Francke is no stranger to receiving awards for the soulful hard rock he's been playing since he was 19, but this month he's being honored for his musical efforts to aid people with leukemia. A survivor of the disease, Francke is receiving the Civic Leadership Award from the Michigan-based Twilight Benefit Foundation.
"This is a large world of caring people," Francke says, "and I'm really honored to be part of this group."
No one knows exactly what causes multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, but certain things can raise your chances of getting it. Your age, race, and whether you have a family member with the disease all play a role. But just because you have one of these risks doesn't mean you'll get sick. And you can come down with the condition even without them.
Not that it's been an easy role. "I went through profound suffering and long trials," he says. "It changed my music, it changed my world, it changed everything about me." In fact, two of the songs on his latest album, Heartless World, are reflections on his disease. The album, which features a guest appearance by rock icon Bruce Springsteen, was released in May.
Stewart Francke's Leukemia Foundation
Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow that targets white blood cells essential for fighting infections. An estimated 43,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with the disease last year.
One of the first things Francke, 53, did when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998 was to create the Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation (www.stewartfrancke.com). It has raised nearly $200,000 for organizations such as the National Marrow Donor Program, which named him volunteer of the year in 2002.
Now in remission, Stewart's trips to the hospital are less for himself than for others battling leukemia. "Just being there tells others 'You can do it. I was where you are, and I made it through. And I'm not just alive. I'm truly living.'"