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Shawn Hook

By Joe Leary

Published 1:43 PDT, Fri May 10, 2024

2023 was certainly a transformative year for Shawn Hook. That said, it was certainly not in a positive sense; in fact—far from it.

It was just days into this New Year when the talented Juno Award-nominated singer/songwriter was diagnosed with cancer.

“My initial thought was perhaps I'm fighting off a cold or a bug as I've had swollen lymph nodes in the past,” he says. “This was different though because it wasn't going away and once I realized that, I made a doctor’s appointment”.  

It also occurred between dates on a pivotal BC tour; of which his mental focus was on the shows as they were particularly demanding. “I was headlining small theatres, solo; just me and a grand piano which required a lot of vocal practice and rehearsals.  

When I'm on stage I'm trying to engage the audience and be as entertaining as possible, so it was a bit of a mental challenge to try to block out my health concerns while trying to put on a great entertaining show”. 

A daunting reality to be sure and as is often the case, the initial diagnosis would prove worse upon subsequent tests. 

“After seeing my GP I was referred to Dr. David Yeh in North Vancouver; one of the top ENT's in Canada and a cancer specialist.  

Once I realized I was seeing him was when the thoughts of potentially having cancer popped into my head. He was going to perform a needle biopsy in the office, but I had a sold-out show in my hometown that weekend, so he told me I'd be okay to wait until the following Monday as pathology can take up to ten days”.

One can only imagine the thoughts running through his head before performing. “Walking onstage that evening I knew that if I had cancer, it could possibly be my last show. 

It actually motivated me even more to put on the show of my life and it went so well”. Feeling light-headed and dizzy after the performance; became Shawn’s ultimate breaking point. 

“I broke down physically and emotionally and knew I was going to have to face the music in a whole different way. “I had the biopsy on Monday and on Jan 31, 2023 I got the call that I was diagnosed with cancer: Squamous Cell Carcinoma with a P16 Expression”.

Daunting words to hear to be sure and not surprisingly, Shawn soon ran the gamut of emotions.

“I remember feeling sad, scared; numb and shocked,” he acknowledges, “but Dr. David Yeh was really calm on the phone and told me that it was treatable and had a high percentage curable rate”.  

There was, however, more to come.

“I wasn't completely diagnosed; the tumor in my neck had cancer cells and I had to get a PET scan in order to determine where the primary cancer was”. 

This added another layer of uncertainty as this surgery is a major procedure; and in a very delicate area. “Being a singer, the prospects of not being able to sing again weighed on me quite heavily—not only because it's a passion of mine and I enjoy it, but it's also how I make a living”. 

While it did result in chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Hook has since heard the word that anyone in this situation wants to hear: Remission. 

“After I got the good news about remission, I started to focus on getting my strength and my voice back. I had a half-finished EP that I was eager to finish.  

After releasing a single last summer that I co-wrote and featured on for a new dance group called, Banker Boys, I ended up signing a deal with Infinity & Records in partnership with UMG and Virgin Music.  

“I’m releasing a new single on May 3 called ‘Magic’,” says Hook. “It’s an invigorating, feel-good anthem and the second single from my upcoming EP”. 

It's also the first of a handful of songs the Juno-nominated singer has slated to release this year.

2024 is certainly shaping up to be a much better year, both health-wise and in terms of the music career of Shawn Hook. 

X - @reallyjoeleary • Instagram @joeleary

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