by Jessica Carreras
Marcus Weatherspoon couldn’t die – he hasn’t been on ‘Oprah’ yet.
Not when he narrowly escaped being in the World Trade Center buildings on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Not when he found a lump on his pelvis and began to get sick.
And not when, in 2007, the now-36-year-old Southfield resident was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that had spread to his throat, chest, stomach and pelvis.
Dying simply wasn’t an option.
Now, over a year later, he is cancer-free – and through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year campaign, he wants to spread his message of awareness and hope to the rest of the world.
And hopefully, get famous in the process.
“Singing is my first actual passion,” he exclaims. “Singing is really kind of my whole story.”
And he won’t stop singing – or living – until he sees his name in lights. “I just believe that my life has a calling and there’s something so deep inside of me that wants to entertain and wants to perform,” Weatherspoon says adamantly. “I can’t leave here until I’ve done it. I can’t leave here until I’m sitting across from Oprah and she’s interviewing me. I refuse to die until that happens.”
It’s a lofty goal, but one that he has dreamt of his entire life.
Weatherspoon grew up in Southfield in what he calls “a wonderful childhood.” But despite his loving family, from an early age, he knew exactly what he needed to do: leave and pursue his dreams.
He left home in the mid-’90s for Atlanta with some friends to begin a career in singing, and eventually migrated to New York City, where he took up make-up artistry and found a passion for Broadway performance.
However, notoriety as a singer – and a record deal – was still out of reach.
“This is the story of my life,” Weatherspoon reminisces. “I’ve done every demo, I’ve sung every song, I’ve tried to sing for every record company. I’ve never really made it the way I wanted.”
But he also never gave up.
In 2001, Weatherspoon returned to Southfield to see his family and found that his mother was sick and confined to a wheelchair. Within days, his visit turned into a move back to Michigan – and another lost chance at becoming a singer.
He got a job working for MAC Cosmetics and started his life all over again, going from fast-paced city life to shopping trips with mom and working his way up as a make-up artist. He did yoga in the mornings and stayed healthy and happy. He acted with local troupes, wrote scripts for plays and continued singing everything from Sinatra to Broadway to pop hits, planning to record another demo.
Then disaster struck again.
“So one morning, I wake up and feel a lump in my pelvic area,” Weatherspoon recalls. “I’m thinking I pulled something. I mean, there was nothing in my mind that told me anything was wrong. I just figured I pulled something and I’ll give it a couple days and it will go down.”
Instead, he ended up getting a biopsy. Weeks passed with no news, but Weatherspoon began to get sick. Finally, a day at work turned harrowing as he became too weak to even stand and had to rush to the hospital.
The news he received was dire. “The one little lump I found was just one of many,” Weatherspoon explains. “There were so many tumors that they could not do any surgery to remove them because there were just too many to remove.
“My doctor looked me in the eyes and told me that I was about to have the biggest fight of my life.”
So that’s what he did – fight.
Eight months of chemotherapy later, in December 2008, Weatherspoon received an early Christmas present: The cancer was gone.
Like his mother’s disability, narrow escapes from disaster and the death of several friends and family members, Weatherspoon credits his perseverance through hard times to prayer and a positive attitude. “I definitely believe it helped with my recovery. Doing the chemo, taking care of myself, changing some of my habits, thinking positively and not giving in to the cancer,” he says. “I believe that if you give up mentally, physically, your body is going to give up. I just chose not to go that route. I chose to go the positive route.”
His positive attitude caught the attention of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, who asked Weatherspoon to run for their Man of the Year campaign. He accepted – and, like his personality, his plans for raising money and awareness are big.
Think: Hollywood-comes-to-Michigan. That’s Weatherspoon’s idea of a fundraising event. “When I dream, I dream in color, and I don’t want to do anything little,” he insists. “I want to do a very classy black tie affair. I want it to be something where people – I don’t want anyone to be bored or get information overload. I don’t want it to be something where people get depressed. I want it to be a celebration.”
Though the details of the event – tentatively set for July – are still being worked out, some things are non-negotiable. There will be a fabulous (hopefully well-known) host. There will be video interviews playing that talk about cancer, the Society and Weatherspoon’s personal story.
And there will be performances. Most notably, the potential Man of the Year himself. “Smoke is going to come out of the stage, then I’ll appear and perform a few numbers,” he says, laughing.
Because let’s face it: Weatherspoon is going to be famous. And, he says, he wants to use his natural stage presence to make people – including gay men – aware of the risk of lymphoma. “From what my understanding is, (lymphoma) is hitting people who are my age – 35 and younger – who are seemingly healthy,” he says, adding that three of his friends, all young, gay men, also died from cancer. “We don’t know about this. We’ve heard about colon cancer. We’ve heard about pancreatic and lung cancer. We don’t hear that much about Hodgkins lymphoma.”
Though the cancer is not specific to the LGBT community, Weatherspoon hopes to get their backing for his event and his cause. “I am a part of the gay community and I would love to have their support,” he says. “Anything I can do to raise awareness about this, I’m there.”
And whether it’s as Man of the Year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or as a famous singer, he wants to share his passion for music and his inspiring story in the hopes that it will inspire others to never give up. “When do you stop? When you die,” he says matter-of-factly. “Now is the time to do as much as you can, enjoy life, travel and meet people and just enjoy life.
“Whatever you’re going through, tomorrow is a new day.”