In a moment, one phone call can change everything.
That’s exactly what happened to singer Heather St. Marie and her husband Matt Dauzat of pop duo Dauzat St. Marie. While on the biggest tour of their career, St. Marie’s world changed forever when she found out that she had breast cancer, immediately turning their lives upside down. Terrified and traumatized by the results, the two had to put their tour—and their lives—on pause to begin an entirely new battle.
Amazingly, after a lengthy battle, St. Marie is thrilled to be cancer-free and the duo have found a new purpose with the ‘In It Together’ campaign, a drive to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Filled with a renewed sense of hope, the two are excited about the opportunity to help women who are facing the same struggle that they experienced themselves. As a survivor herself, St. Marie knows that she will never forget the day that things began to change.
“It was crazy because we were at the highest of the high,” St. Marie starts. “We were out on tour with Pat Benatar, who’s an icon for any female singer, and Rick Springfield. It was just amazing and we were on top of the world. Then, that happens. I felt that lump. I think that when you’re on tour, you learn how to kind of compartmentalize. I just kept telling myself that it’s going to be nothing… But, there’s always that little voice saying, ‘what if it’s not?’ So, I wasn’t going to sit on it. I called my doctor the very next morning and I said… I need to get in and see you. I wasn’t sure what to think but it escalated very quickly and within 48 hours, it’s like, yes, you have cancer.”
“Immediately, you go from the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. I had to hear this news on the phone because my doctor went out of the country while we were waiting on lab results… and wasn’t back for a month. That’s a long time to wait to not know. Everything flashes before your eyes, and I just kept thinking, I’m not ready to go… You learn how to just focus on what’s right in front of you and just one foot in front of the other. I think that’s kind of what we just did. It was like, deep breath and this is the new battle. It’s not touring anymore. We’re just going to jump… from tour battle to cancer battle. We just switched gears and everything in our whole lives changed at that point.”
Though St. Marie may have been the one suffering physically, there is no question that both she and Dauzat were ‘in it together’. For him, the experience may have seemed like it was from the outside yet he was very much committed to helping anywhere he could.
“It’s the same fight. On tour, I’m the booking, often the driver, tour manager, and everything else,” he explains. “So, I just kind of fell into the caregiver role and was just there to support, with lots of driving to appointments and just whatever needed doing. It’s not a whole lot of thinking that is involved. You just have to fall into the role and do it. One foot in front of the other. You can’t hardly think too many plays down the road. You kind of have to focus on the battle of the day, which is very unlike what we usually do. We typically have our next few moves kind of thought out and maybe even in play. With the cancer thing, it almost seemed like the doctors would only really want to kind of give you enough for you to be able to digest and accomplish now, not really telling you exactly what’s coming after that. They just kind of seemed to keep us focused on the battle of the day. Tomorrow is another day, which kind of made it easier in a way because there’s a lot of stuff we don’t need to know. Let’s just focus on what we can do today.”
When they finally got the news that she was cancer-free, you might expect that both Dauzat and St. Marie would be ecstatic with joy. However, after a grueling process, St. Marie points out that their initial reaction was quite the opposite.
“It’s funny. You would think that, when the doctor says you’re cancer-free, you should be celebrating,” she reflects. “Instead, it was almost like this small depression kicked in. I think [it was] a day or two later that we really talked about it. For the last year and a half, we’ve had this battle. Every day, you get up and you’re fighting cancer. Then, one day, you wake up and you have no battle and you have no purpose. You’re almost adrift, you know? So, while you should be celebrating because it’s a huge accomplishment to beat cancer, all of a sudden, the fights gone out of you and the rug’s pulled out from under you. I bring this up because that’s why we decided [that] we need a new purpose. So, we’re going to take this song and we’re going to turn it into something to help others who are going to go through what we just gone through. That’s kind of how the whole campaign was born.”
Despite the heavy emotional burden they were already experiencing, the two still felt that they should open up about their journey to their fans. Not knowing what to expect, they found that they were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support that they received.
“We thought about it for a long time. A lot of people said you probably don’t want to do that. It’s enough work as it is, right?,” St. Marie states. “Giving updates to family members and close friends and now, all of a sudden, you’ve got everyone to kind of give updates to and respond to. But again, we just felt in our hearts that we had to do it. It was humbling to see all the love that came back from all over the world. All these years that Matt and I have toured and worked online promoting and just keeping these connections with people that we don’t really like calling fans. They’re really more like friends. All of that just came back 10x. It was really beautiful! It did absolutely help me on those dark, hard days to keep going, because I knew that there were people that cared. People wanted to see the good outcome and so it gave me a reason to fight.”
“That’s kind of what we’re here talking about today with the In It Together Campaign,” Dauzat continues. “We decided to use our platform for good and helping others. We decided to share our cancer battle with our fans because we have really strong relationships with [them] and the responsible thing to do was to share what we’re going through in hopes that it might help others. We started getting these messages from women saying, ‘Hey, you know, your story inspired me to go out and get a mammogram that I’ve been putting off for however long!’ Then some others were further reporting that, ‘Hey, your story inspired me to go get a mammogram. And I found out that I have early stage breast cancer.’ So now there’s your light bulb moment, right. Now, if we spread this awareness, we can help save lives because the ugly statistic is one in every eight women with breast cancer. So, if we can get the word out to eight women and they all go get their mammograms, we can save the one early detection.”
With a new sense of purpose in their hearts, the In It Together Campaign was soon born. Spearheaded by their incredible new single In It Together, the goal of the campaign is not only to raise funds for the American Cancer Society but also to raise awareness of cancer’s widespread effects. As the video began to come together, St. Marie says the experience ended up being far more special than she could have imagined.
“We knew we wanted to help people and we knew that the song had a lot of potential,” she beams. “We hit up some good friends of ours who were a dynamic filmmaking duo, Sebastian Paquet and Allie Roberto and told them what we had in mind and brainstormed and they ran with it. They get us. We all just started hitting people up and we got this beautiful crew of mostly women and then we had the male actor who was in it. Everyone was there for a reason. Everyone had been touched by cancer somehow and it was just beautiful. When we got the video back, I cried. It was even more beautiful than I had in my mind and more impactful. It was just fantastic. So, we said the world needs to see this as much as we can hit and reach. We thought, how can we make the biggest impact?”
“The first thing that came to mind is the American Cancer Society. They’re over a hundred years old and they’ve actually grown to be global,” she continues. “They’re a great organization. So, we reached out to them just on a whim, they got back immediately and we developed a team there. Some of the people were concerned [that] if I donate to a corporation, is it actually going help these people? When we started talking, you hear their passion. They have one of these guys whose head of communications on the west coast and he’s on the phone sometimes late at night, talking to people who’ve just gotten a cancer diagnosis because there’s a 24-hour hotline. These people care that much. They’re not just sitting in a corporate office, signing papers and doing their little thing. They are actually on the front lines helping so I felt good about the fact that we were going to join forces with them and they care as much as we do.
Since both the song and the campaign are incredibly personal for the duo, there were several aspects of their story that St. Marie felt would be important to the development of the video as well.
“For me, mostly, it was not just my story but the story of the caregiver,” she recalls. “Those opening scenes are actually very much how it happened. Unfortunately, I had to find out on the phone. Matt came in the room and when he saw my face, we both almost just crumbled. That hits me every time I see it because the actors portrayed it, you can see it. That’s just how we felt. That was very important because the caregivers sometimes get overlooked. I think that their role is a lot harder even than for the patient, because they’re the ones dealing with the fallout. They’re the ones having to deal with the reality of cooking and cleaning and taking care of them and all these things. It’s exhausting and draining, so that was really important.”
“The second thing that was really important to me was that, when the girls come in and surround me, it’s symbolizes what I felt. I said early on having breast cancer is like joining this club that you never knew existed and you never wanted to be in, but if you have to be in it, it’s beautiful… When you join this cancer club, it’s a beautiful thing that happens because it hits us. Strangers on the street, when I’m out would you say, I’m going to pray for you or just I hope you’re going to be okay. It’s a terrible, ugly, beautiful gift that you’ve been given and I wanted to portray that in the video.”
Embedded within the lyrics of In It Together is the somewhat surprising suggestion that the highs and the lows are not only intertwined but also necessary. According to Dauzat, this idea stems from their belief that the worst moments of life allow them to experience a deeper sense of appreciation for the better times.
“I think, without great lows, how can we truly appreciate great highs? It’s all about perspective, right?,” Dauzat believes. “So, it’s a necessary thing. We always really appreciate the lows. We appreciate the tough times that we’ve gone through because when we experienced the good times, we really fully can embrace it. We feel that we’ve earned that because we’ve gone through things. I think people need to embrace the lows and understand that, when you’re given lows, there are a lot of great lessons that you can take out of those moments. You can use those to create your new highs or to enhance the new highs that are coming later.”
“In modern society, we’re living longer and we’re so detached from death as opposed to people in the 1800s, when it was really a part of life, you know?,” echoes St. Marie. “So, I think that might be why people are afraid of challenges because it brings up emotions and the fact that we’re all mortal. No one wants to look at that these days, but, like Matt said, those are the things that make us multi-dimensional. Those are the things that make us complex and more interesting and stronger. If you’ve never been challenged, you’re kind of weak because you don’t know what it’s like to go through that. I feel that, for me, I’ve always been compassionate, but I don’t think I even had the capability of being as compassionate and empathetic as I am now that I’ve gone through this. Even just appreciating the little things, like we would draw to radiation early every morning across Los Angeles, South of Santa Monica. We got to see so many amazing things. There was a butterfly migration, Millions of butterflies are migrating from Mexico up north. I wouldn’t have seen that if I hadn’t been going to my radiology appointment. So, with cancer, it’s like somebody cleaned the window with Windex and, all of a sudden, everything becomes crystal clear. It’s the little things that we can appreciate and you don’t get that unless you’re going through some suffering and some difficult times.“
With the campaign now in full swing, the duo are thrilled to get the word out to as many people as possible. Asked how people can participate, St. Marie declares that there are a number of different ways that the public can donate financially or simply show their support on social media.
Says St. Marie, “You can donate immediately. If you text DSMBand to 20222, that’s going to be a $25 immediate donation that’s also tax deductible. It goes directly to the American Cancer Society. If you guys are fortunate enough that you’ve survived this crazy year and you have a little bit more, you can do more on our site (dsm.band). There will be a way that you can donate with a credit card for extra large donations or, if it’s a company that wants to donate, you can donate with a cheque and all that information is going to be on the landing page.”
“If you’re looking for a holiday gift that keeps on giving, you can donate with your credit card and put it in honor of somebody or as a tribute to someone who’s passed away from cancer. We’re trying to make this inclusive to everybody. Now, if you guys don’t have any money, if you’re struggling really hard, we get it. All we ask is that you share the hashtag and the post. We’re going to blanket it. We’ve got a whole list of friends, family, celebrities that all on board with us to push this campaign out. So, when you see it, please share it. The hashtag is #inittogether. We’re going to be having it out there so that most people just go watch the video. It’s compelling. Honestly, everyone on this Earth is going to be touched by cancer or has been already… I’m a direct recipient of the good work that American Cancer Society is doing so you can feel good about this, if you get involved in our campaign,”
For full audio of our conversation with Dauzat St. Marie, click here.