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Etheridge Surprises UCLA Students


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Melissa Etheridge Surprises UCLA Students

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Melissa Etheridge lectures UCLA Cancer Biology Class.

On a typical afternoon, 300 UCLA cancer biology students shifted in their seats as they waited for class to begin on Wednesday, October 5. Then came a loud knock on the door and in walked a surprise guest professor cancer survivor and rock star Melissa Etheridge.

"Good afternoon," said the popular musician as she smiled at the undergraduates. Some students gasped, others clapped.

For an hour, the 44-year-old singer delved into her emotional, year long battle with breast cancer from the rousing performance she delivered at the Grammy Awards in February to hating chemotherapy and having to tell her children she might die.

"I've been a rock star since you were very young," said Etheridge, 44. "But I've never encountered anything as powerful as cancer."

The visit, filmed for MTV's college network mtvU will air October 17. Etheridge's teaching duties followed a musical special Etheridge recently filmed for the Lifetime cable channel. "We're all a big fan of hers. We're looking for icons," mtvU's Stephen Friedman said.

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Guest Professor Melissa Etheridge

Mostly female students queried Etheridge, and her frank responses drew laughter and tears. "Were you afraid to die?" asked one student.

"I don't fear death. I have a lot more to do," Etheridge answered.

Of what it was like to go through chemotherapy and surgery, Etheridge pointed to her scars and said even her ears hurt during treatment. "I couldn't turn music on, which broke my heart," she said.

Student Kasey Fries, 21, walked away from the experience inspired by Etheridge, who she said "had such a positive attitude." Fries added, "It was great not only to get a breast cancer survivor's experience, but to hear from someone who showed that in front of the whole world."

Other guest professors from MtvU's "Stand In" series have included rappers Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, Israeli Statesman Shimon Peres, Author Tom Wolfe and Musician Marilyn Manson.

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