The 30-year-old from Zanesville, Ohio, is battling her third bout of cancer. She believes she is still alive to be a gift to others.
“I can’t tell people what will happen,” she told Brad Johansen as they sat talking in a friend’s house near where she attended high school. “But I can tell people what is possible, I can show people what is possible.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay
it’s okay, it’s okay
If you’re lost
We’re all a little lost
and it’s all right,” Nightbirde sings from the AGT stage airing last Tuesday.
All 85 pounds of Jane Marczewski turned into Nightbirde that night.
“I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2017, with breast cancer,” she said.
It would be the first of three reoccurring cancer diagnoses.
“And what do doctors say about metastatic breast cancer?” Johansen asked.
“It’s incurable,” Marczewski said. “It may ebb and flow through your life maybe, but at the end of the day, you’ll die.”
In 2019, they gave her 3 to 6 months to live.
“Soon after that 3 to 6-month diagnosis, my husband informed me he no longer wanted to be married,” she recalls of the recent split.
After that bombshell, Marczewski headed west.
“I moved to California in the summertime,” she sings of the move. “You can lie to yourself and say you’re fine/ I changed my name thinking that it would change my mind.”
“You can go down those dark roads and stay there because it’s so tragic,” she said.
“I thought that all my problems, they would stay behind,” her song echoes.
“Or you can go down those dark roads and come back,” Marczewski said. “The third is hardest but it’s never without reward.”
In three straight nightly dreams, Marczewski said she saw birds at her window, singing, at night.
“It felt so poetic that these birds were singing as if it were morning, and yet there was no sign of it yet, and that’s what I want to embody,” she said.
Bald and too weak to stand, she sent an audition tape to AGT.
“‘It’s OK’ is something I’ve been saying to myself through the whole situation,” Marczewski said.
Then another, and another, the last one a cover of “Don’t Stop Believing.”
“If something so impossibly catastrophic, unimaginably awful can happen, then doesn’t it mean that something unimaginably beautiful and impossibly redemptive can happen?” she insists.
“Oh, dang, oh, my,
now I can’t hide
Said I knew myself but I guess I lied,” her life in song continues.
“When you walked out on that stage, did you know something amazing was going to happen?” Johansen wondered.
“I didn’t know. I thought, ‘Maybe,'” she smiles about the slight pause before the crowd at AGT erupted into a standing ovation. “It’s not about me. I want to be a whole person on my own, so I don’t need all these people to like me in order to feel complete, and that wasn’t always the case.”
Don’t misunderstand. All this attention, she loves it: #1 on iTunes, four songs in the top 100 before the week was out. Music for the imperfect.
“If you listen for it and look for it, you’ll see Jesus all over it,” Marczewski said. “You’ll find it there, but I’m not just writing music for people that believe the way I believe. I think that’s ridiculous.”
“Do you think about death?” Johansen asked.
“Yeah, yeah I’m not afraid of if,” Marczewski replied. “I’m ready to die whenever it’s time for me to die.”
She’s gained 20 pounds since April and is staying with her family who has picked her up after every fall.
“This is my seven dots,” as she points to the tattoo on her right forearm. “There is a verse in the Bible that says a righteous person falls seven times and gets back up again.”
“Are you bitter?” Johansen asked.
“No, and that’s the miracle part,” Marczewski said. “I shouldn’t be here breathing.”
Or singing a song that makes it seem like anything’s possible.
“The note that I’ve been given to sing in the orchestra of life is short and insignificant, truly, but I want to sing it well,” she said “I want to sing it well.”