Singer Andrew McMahon on Overcoming Cancer

McMahon, who was diagnosed with cancer at 22, describes his battle and recovery.

Singer Andrew McMahon from Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin.
By + More

You've done a lot of good with the Dear Jack Foundation—giving college scholarships to young adults with cancer whose parents have spent all their money paying for treatment, for example. What else is new?

As an organization you're always looking for where you fit and where you can make an impact. And as all these studies continue to pile up, citing the poor survival and lack of improvement in survival rates of young adults with cancer, it started to become pretty evident to me—well, I wasn't just a leukemia patient. I was a young adult leukemia patient, which is a really tricky thing to be. They don't have protocols built for young adults, and that's because they're hard to research and hard to study. When you find out you have leukemia when you're 15 or 22 years old, they ask if you want to be treated as an adult or a child. And you're like, 'Well, why can't you just treat me as a 22 year old person who has cancer?' So now our goal is finding organizations that do things to benefit young adults, like sending kids to camp so they can get away from the hospital and the lifestyle of being a person who's sick.

What's your advice to young adults with cancer?

Just breathe. I think that's what got me through. I'd studied yoga for a lot of years before I got sick, and I had actually kind of gotten away from it in the year before I was actually ill. One of the main things I did was tap back into that, and I was all about meditating and breathing. Everybody talks about fighting against cancer, but I think in a lot of senses you have to almost relax into it and let it happen, and try your best to stay positive. I think for me that was the No. 1 thing that I felt was responsible, in conjunction with treatments: to be able to breathe through it and not be tense and raging against it.