Inspiring Naomi Judd

Imagine working your way from poverty to the top of the world and then finding out you have contracted a life-threatening disease which forces you to quit the one thing that you love and that made you a success. Then think about how you would go on, how you would pick up the pieces and not only survive, but thrive again. The guest on Ralph Emery’s next installment of his On The Record With series did just that.

Naomi Judd was born in Kentucky, was married at age 18, and by the early 70s, she found herself a single mom with two children (Wynonna and Ashley). With her two daughters, she moved to Los Angeles, back to Kentucky, back to Los Angeles, and then in 1979 to Nashville in pursuit of a record deal. During her travels she earned a nursing degree and began working as a nurse in Nashville. Once the family was settled, they began knocking on the music industry’s doors and often got up in the wee hours of the morning to appear on the Ralph Emery Show.

Their big break came because of a chance meeting with a patient in the hospital where Naomi worked. Naomi gave a tape of “Mama He’s Crazy” to the patient who played it for her dad, prominent Nashville record producer Brent Maher, who subsequently lead the duo to their now famous live RCA audition where they were signed on the spot.

Throughout their coveted eight years as a recording duo, The Judds earned six Grammys, nine CMA Awards, nine TNN/Music City News Country Awards, ACM Awards, countless number one singles and several gold and platinum albums.

In 1991, Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis-C and was forced to announce her retirement. The Judds embarked on a year long farewell tour (against doctor’s orders), which became the highest grossing country music tour of 1991, and helped launch Wynonna’s solo career. In 1993, Naomi published her autobiography, Love Can Build a Bridge and in 1997 her book full of recipes for the body and soul, Naomi’s Home Companion: A Treasury of Favorite Recipes, Food for Thought and Country Wit and Wisdom came out.

In addition to promoting her book, she spends a great deal of time appearing as a motivational speaker. She has been the keynote speaker at the State Louisiana Mental Health Association and has spoken in Times Square for the World Peace Federation among many others. She also does a great deal to raise money for hospitals and women’s shelters. Through these engagements, Naomi has become one of America’s most beloved inspirational speakers and is currently in the studio working on a series of motivational tapes.

During her interview with Ralph Emery, which airs on TNN on Wednesday, January 28 from 10:00 – 11:00 p.m. Eastern, Naomi discusses the impact of her diagnosis of hepatitis C, and how she relied on her faith and medical background to persevere and even triumph. She describes the severity of hepatitis C and how she contracted it from a needle stick when she worked as a nurse in the ICU. She explains, “Now you guys watch ER, Chicago Hope and all these shows, and you see all that life and death trauma unit stuff. And you know when someone else’s life is on the line you don’t think about your own safety. I did whatever I had to do..So I got needle sticks, and blood and bodily fluids on me all the time.”

Naomi began taking Interferon, the only drug treatment available for hepatitis C. The treatment is not a cure, but rather, a boost for the patient’s immune system. No true cure is known for hepatitis C. Her symptoms improved for a while, but after six months, they returned with a vengeance, and she decided she had to do something. She describes her actions as “a voyage of self-discovery on a journey to wholeness.” If modern medicine did not have the complete answer, then she would begin to look elsewhere. She focused on her spirituality and began “hanging out with experts who already knew about the mind-body connection,” and developing a program of what she calls “complimentary medicine.”

In her work, she discovered research regarding common characteristics found in persons who survive catastrophic illnesses. They are:
1. Faith
2. A Sense of Humor
3. Having a Support System
4. A Connection with the Natural World – Being Outside
5. Having a Purpose or Goal in Life
6. A Proper Diet – Eating Healthy
7. Having an Open Belief System

Naomi goes on to further explain the last point as experimenting and “going where your own questions lead you.” She goes on to suggest, “practicing discernment and saying ‘well this works for me’ and ‘this doesn’t register with my spirit.’”

Today, Naomi Judd has no symptoms of the disease and feels “fabulous.” She has been in remission for a couple of years and laughs about her doctors’ amazement. As part of her continued search for a cure for hepatitis C, she has established the Naomi Judd Research Fund and acts as a spokesperson for the American Liver Association.

She has just completed a tour promoting her newest book, Naomi’s Home Companion: A Treasury of Favorite Recipes, Food for Thought and Country Wit and Wisdom. The book reflects the long Judd family tradition of cooking for family and friends. It features 75 recipes ranging from the simple, quick-to-fix meals she made when she was a single mom, to the on-the-road cuisine she prepared while touring. She describes the collection as the Judds’ greatest hits of recipes. Some of the best cuts include Wy’s favorite “Chicken Continental,” “Polly’s Fried Chicken” and “Ashley’s Four Layered Dessert.”

Even though Naomi eats a very healthy diet, she talks about the importance of comfort food to her and her family. She jokes, “Stressed – turn it around, and it’s desserts.” In addition to recipes, the book is chock-full of fun anecdotes like this.

During the tour, Naomi appeared on Prime Time Country with Gary Chapman to prepare a recipe from the book. As she was cooking, Gary set the book down on the stove right on top of a burner that was still on. All of the sudden, the two were engulfed in smoke, and Naomi started waving her arms frantically. Gary flicked the smoldering book off the counter, snatched it up and displayed the “cooked book” to the audience. Who said a book tour isn’t exciting?

The special with Ralph is full of many more exciting stories too! You will not want to miss Naomi’s stories of Michael Bolton undressing in her backyard and how her Horizon Award acceptance comments of “Slap the dog, and spit in the fire” were misinterpreted.

Through all her activities, Naomi’s focus remains, “spirit-mind-body work” and “encouraging people to really take their health more seriously. You have to learn to live from the inside. The inward, downward journey is the real thing. That’s what’s going to make you happy and make you fully present in your life.” Her advice? “Do what really makes you feel peaceful and happy and good.” Naomi is her own best proof – her advice works!

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