How Tracy Bonham's Divorce and Breast Cancer Diagnosis Became an 'Opportunity to Turn Inward': 'It's a Gift' (Exclusive)

The "Mother Mother" hitmaker tells PEOPLE that she's "strangely enjoying the focus on myself and the healing" amid life's changes

Tracy Bonham isn’t one to dwell on the negative.

"I'm feeling great," the musician tells PEOPLE during a recent  Zoom interview from her boyfriend's home in Brooklyn.

The uplifting comment hides a bit of the chaos that the "Mother, Mother" hitmaker, 57, has actually been going through, as the classically trained violinist and pianist turned alternative singer-songwriter was diagnosed with stage 1 lobular breast cancer on January 25, 2024.

"Physically, I didn't feel like anything was wrong," remembers Bonham, who rose to fame in 1996 with her twice Grammy-nominated album, The Burdens of Being Upright. "Maybe spiritually and mentally, there was something there. Something was sending me to get checked. Something was giving me the message that I needed to look deeper into what was happening."

Initially, doctors diagnosed Bonham with invasive carcinoma, but after several biopsies, it was determined that she did in fact have stage 1 lobular breast cancer.

"I'm so happy that I caught it early," she says. "I could have gone on for a very long time without knowing, until it could have the size of a golf ball, which happens to a lot of women. You don't feel it in the early stages."

<p>Shervin Lainez</p> Tracy Bonham

Shervin Lainez

Tracy Bonham

Mere weeks after her diagnosis, Bonham underwent both a lumpectomy and lymph gland removal at NYU Langone. Doctors successfully removed the tumor and declared all her margins were clear.  And soon after that, she came to her loyal fans with the news.

"My original thought was that I was going to hold this to myself and I'm just going to suffer or be silent about it," remembers Bonham. "But then I realized is that I had been hiding most of my life and I didn’t want to do that anymore. And for a moment, I thought this is all about me, me, me, and that makes me feel weird. But then I realized other people started sharing their story. They had a completely different story, but they admired my vulnerability and openness. Suddenly, I felt like I had this tribe and everyone else was supporting or being supported by it. I am really happy I did it."

It's this new sense of vulnerability that also caused Bonham to release her achingly truthful single "Damn the Sky (For Being Too Wide)" earlier this year, with the hopes that telling the story of her failed marriage would also help all those who listened to the song's devastating lyrics.

"My marriage was not going well," recalls Bonham of the day she wrote the song back in the early spring of 2019. "It had been hard for quite some time, and I felt very lonely and isolated. I felt something coming, and I just sat down at the piano and I hit record. From the moment I put my fingers on the piano, this song came out, lyrics and all, and I've never really done that before."

In 2021, Bonham and her husband Jason Fine began divorce proceedings after 15 years of marriage.

"I tried really hard," says Bonham, who wrote metaphorically about her struggles on her upcoming album. "We have a beautiful 13-year-old son that we adopted when we was just 14 months old. I was not hoping for this to happen, but I needed to save myself. I didn't have the support system that I was longing for. Plus, I was becoming a shell of myself, and I didn't want my son to experience that either."

Today, Bonham finds herself experiencing true love all over again in the arms of her boyfriend, professional jazz musician Rene Hart. "He’s such a support, and I've never really had that before,” she says. “It is the relationship that I would see in others and go, 'God, I wish I had that. That's what I want. It looks so comfortable.' And now I have it, and I'm so fortunate."

Related: Rocker Linda Perry Reveals She Had a Double Mastectomy After Breast Cancer Diagnosis: 'I Feel So Lucky' (Exclusive)

And with the help and support of many, Bonham says she is ready to conquer all that lies ahead, including continued radiation treatments and hormone therapies to ensure that the cancer does not come back.

"There's some fear of recurrence," she says quietly. "There are always so many questions. 'What did I do to cause this? How do I not do that?' There is the fear that maybe even this cup of coffee could lead to recurrence, you know?  I’m trying to really manage the fear."

She is managing that fear in a few ways.

"Luckily I have therapy," says Bonham. "And luckily, I was given a lot of books to read. I'm strangely enjoying the focus on myself and the healing, because I think as women, we're always thinking about others or even how others perceive us, and that expends so much energy."

She adds, "Right now, there's this opportunity to really turn inward and make this into a growth learning opportunity. It's a gift."

<p>Shervin Lainez</p> Tracy Bonham

Shervin Lainez

Tracy Bonham

Related: Donna Lewis Revisits 'Dark Days' Battling Breast Cancer: 'My Music Became My Therapy' (Exclusive)

On Friday, PEOPLE is premiering the music video for "Whether You Fall," which Bonham describes as a "deeply powerful and uplifting song about taking the hits in life and getting back up."

Although it's a song she wrote awhile ago, Bonham says it's been a big fan favorite for years and one that she has had "more people tell me that this helped them through tough times more than any other song in my repertoire." She recorded the new album version in Woodstock, New York in December 2023, "exactly one month before I received my cancer diagnosis."

For the moving music video, Bonham worked with choreographer Suzanne Haag and the Eugene Ballet of Oregon to bring her song to life.

"Being on stage for this special performance was such a unique experience for me," she tells PEOPLE. "If only I could have been out front to actually see the beauty as it happened! This performance took place only four weeks after my breast surgery and the entire piece depicts the resolve I have needed to navigate my own challenges with health, relationship and setbacks. When I see and hear my band behind me, silhouetted to not take focus away from the dancers, I feel the love and support from them as they accompany me so beautifully."

Bonham will officially release "Whether You Fall" as her next single on June 21 and will play Milwaukee Summerfest on June 27. Information on additional upcoming shows are available here.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.