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LeDoux finds calm after the storm

By Dan MacIntosh, June 2002

"Some Things Never Change" is not just the title for one of Chris LeDoux's new songs. It's also an apt description of his dogged perseverance: even in the face of some recent and seriously troubling health issues. When doctors told him his liver was in a bad way, his very survival was put on the line.

LeDoux's latest album is called "After The Storm," and his own well-publicized personal storm arrived in the form of a life-threatening bout with primary scerosing cholangitis, a disease that can lead to liver failure and required him to have a liver transplant last year.

His 'after storm' circumstances included a restlessness with the whole healing process and questions about whether or not this tough rodeo cowboy could still continue his active ranch lifestyle. But LeDoux was nothing, if not blunt and direct when it came to asking the doctors about his physical future.

"Is there a chance I could really tear something loose?" he asked the doctor. "And the doctor said, 'No, we sewed you together real good.' They put everything back, and made sure everything was going to stay."

This was welcome news, since when he's not on the road performing his high energy country music in concerts, he has a new barn he's building, waiting for him back home.

"We're irrigating right now," LeDoux explains about his ranch. "We're building a barn, and we've been working on that all winter. And we'll have to brand here shortly. So, we're still doing everything."

Sure, he was concerned about his abilities to do his ranching chores. But his fans weren't even certain at first if he was completely ready to return to the concert stage.

"The first year we started back, they looked at me and seemed to be kind of worried," LeDoux recalls with a laugh. ""Maybe you oughta just take it easy," they seemed to be saying. You could just see it in their eyes. But there was a happiness there, too."

Let's face it, there's only so much doctors can do for you when it comes time to face your post-operation life. LeDoux has made a lot of such new life adjustments all on his own.

"You gotta figure out some stuff on your own," he says. "I can't overdo it sometimes, and I'm startin' to kinda figure that out. I'm probably back to about 90 percent. Of course, part of that is probably due to my just getting older."

When faced with a life and death situation, such dire circumstances can't help but make a guy become more than just a little reflective. But LeDoux didn't ever overdramatize his personal situation.

"I was really sick, so I thought if it's my time to go, then I guess I've had 50 good years. If not, I just sort of went with the flow. I've always felt fortunate that I've been able to do the things I've wanted to do. I've had dreams since I was a kid and was able to go ahead and try to fulfill 'em. Most things have really sorta fallen into place, with some work and some luck. If it was my time to go, then I was ready."

"Then I got to thinkin' afterwards, 'Man, how selfish can that be? I've got a wife who's still got the rest of her life to live, and she might want to see me around a little bit.' So, I guess I had been kind of a selfish guy."

He can't really be too very selfish of an individual, however, to have made his marriage last for 30 years and counting.

"We're all selfish, I guess, but if you want to make a relationship work, then you have to give," he advises. "But my wife's the one that's been doing the most of the giving, though. She's an angel, for sure."

Some people, when facing the possibility of death, start thinking back over all the things they've taken for granted in life. But LeDoux is not that sort of a man. Nevertheless, the long weeks of healing did begin to take a toll on his emotions. Sometimes it takes an illness to remind us the simple joys of just feeling good, and such scenario was certainly true for LeDoux.

"I don't think I ever really took anything for granted much," LeDoux says. "I've always really appreciated everything. I think it's maybe a little more keen now than it was. Especially right after (the operation)."

"For a couple of months right after, spiritually, I just felt like I was dead. It was odd. It was like your spirit just goes in a hole and hides or dies or something. Just to find a little moment of joy or a little spark of life or a little bit of zap flowing. Man, I'd cling to those moments like you wouldn't believe."

"But you know how it is when you step out on a spring day and you feel great. Those moments were so few during that whole time. They might last a minute, but boy they were just wonderful. But then you would get in this funk again, and they would go away. But as the healing process took over - you know, your physical healing - I think the spirit starts healing too. So (from) just a sunrise on a certain particular day, man, you just felt like hollerin' 'Yee-haw!'"

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