‘I have fought a long fight’

I can count the number of concerts I have attended on one hand.

In high school, I saw P.O.D. in downtown Birmingham with a few friends.

There was the time last year when Colt Ford, Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert came to Birmingham one warm night. There was the time Morgan Wallen, Nelly, Chris Lane and Florida Georgia Line shared the stage on a cold night at the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. 

But this week, I tried something different. My wife and I went to Iron City in downtown Birmingham, a venue that fills up an hour before the opening act takes the stage. We went to see Walker McGuire and Kane Brown.

We stood in a line that wrapped around two buildings, among teenage girls with Kane Brown photos used as their iPhone wallpapers, with twenty-somethings who could have used perhaps six more inches of material on their dresses. 

Inside, we smelled enough cheap cologne to singe nose hairs and tried to find a quiet spot on the mezzanine. It was crowded, loud, hot, and I felt as if these types of events had passed me by. I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to standing for three straight hours amongst the screamers and the beer-drinkers. 

But something great, in addition to the music, happened.

Up on the mezzanine were a dozen or so reserved tables. We stood directly behind one, and I mentioned to my wife, “Must be VIP.”

The table’s occupants showed up close to showtime, both women. One was bald, with gold crosses dangling from her ears. She was there to see Kane Brown, and she was excited. She even brought a small sign that referenced one of the country artist’s songs. It read, “This Is My ‘Last Minute Late Night’ Before My Surgery.” Surgery was underlined. She taped that small sign to the mezzanine railing, hoping the budding country star would see it. 

As the night went on, she asked my wife to take photos of her and her friend. My wife, of course, did.

I found out the woman, named Merin, has Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer, diagnosed June 5 of this year. She had port surgery just over a week later and has since had four rounds of Red Devil chemotherapy, and twelve treatments of Taxol and Carboplatin. One treatment a week for twelve weeks.

Someone at the concert asked when Merin, from Pell City, was having surgery. The surgery is this Dec. 12, a double mastectomy and reconstruction. She will have to spend four or five days in the hospital, and will also have four drains and expanders for a few months. 

“It was very important to me to be able to have a fun night out,” the woman told me. “I’ve only had a six-week gap in between my chemo treatments and surgery day.”

She told me that she was in Atlanta for the Luke Combs concert the previous night. She was having her own “last minute late nights” before life changes for a long while. 

“After surgery I really won’t be able to attend any more concerts for a while just because of risk of getting sick or bumped into,” she said. “I don’t know how after surgery I will be feeling. The doctors told me around a year or so. My next concert I’m going to shoot for is Florida Georgia Line, Luke Combs or Carrie Underwood.

“I have fought a long fight,” she said. “You always think, ‘Oh my, I feel bad for someone who has cancer.’ But until you live it you really have no idea how bad it is.”

It is tough financially and emotionally. The woman has a seven-year-old son she calls “wonderful,” and he needs his mother. He has had to help her more than any kid should have to. It’s not fair to him, she told me. 

“I will be glad when this is all over with so he can be a kid again, and I can take back my role as mom,” she told me. “I trust in the Lord to guide my family and I in the right direction. With Him, anything is possible.”

The concert was awesome, and I know this woman enjoyed it. I could see it on her face, hear it in her screams as Kane Brown performed “Last Minute Late Night” and “Learning” on stage. 

Kane Brown never saw her sign, as far as I know. The room was too dark at times, and too bright with purple lights at others. I wish he would have seen it, and gotten to meet this special woman.

I checked Kane Brown’s social media channels two days after the concert, just to see if he posted anything from his trip to the Magic City.

His two Tweets since the show: “My job’s to bring light into other people’s lives” and “You’re special.”

If he didn’t see that woman’s sign, you could have fooled me with those Tweets.