Earlier this month, the television show America’s Got Talent offered a touching personal story and message of hope in addition to an impressive performance. Jane Marczewski, who sings under the name Nightbirde, wowed judges and earned the “Golden Buzzer” which automatically qualifies her for the live shows later this summer. What stood out to judges and viewers alike, however, was Nightbirde’s courage and optimism in the face of great adversity.
Before she sang her original composition, Nightbirde chatted with the judges as they sought to find out more about her and what brought her to the stage and more about her song, “It’s OK.” When the bright-eyed, energetic-looking young woman revealed that she had cancer, the judges were visibly stunned. Howie Mandel gasped, “So… you’re not OK?” She said with a smile, “Well, not in every way, no.”
Mandel noted, “You’ve got a beautiful smile and a beautiful glow, and nobody would know.” To which Nightbirde replied, “Thank you. It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me. … You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
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Nightbirde sang an original song, “It’s OK,” which conveys the feelings of being lost and alone yet reassured and optimistic. Judge Simon Cowell, notoriously short and blunt with contestants, was visibly moved by Nightbirde’s performance, saying simply, “wow,” after she finished singing. Cowell reached for the “Golden Buzzer,” sending Nightbirde to the live performance and closer to potentially winning the competition. After Nightbirde left the stage, Cowell reflected on the bit of her life story she shared and her stunning performance saying, “God, that really got to me.”
On her blog, Nightbirde revealed more of her harrowing story. On New Year’s Eve in 2019, Nightbirde, who is just 30 years-old, was diagnosed with terminal cancer with “innumerable …throughout my lungs, liver, lymph nodes, ribs, and spine” and given six months to live. Shortly after that crushing diagnosis, which was not her first bout of cancer, Nightbirde’s husband divorced her.
With such a severe diagnosis, Nightbirde would qualify for assisted suicide in many countries where the anti-Life practice is legal. Increasingly, our culture sends the message that Life with difficulty and suffering is not worth living, encouraging people like Nightbirde to end their lives instead of fighting. Studies show that the reason people seek assisted suicide is not illness or physical pain but instead feelings of despair and fear of becoming a burden to others.
Nightbirde is a reminder of the hope and humanity of every living person, no matter how difficult a diagnosis or condition. After leaving the stage, Nightbirde said, “I have a two percent chance of survival, but two percent is not zero percent. Two percent is something, and I wish people knew how amazing it is.”
Although her cancer, which was in remission last year, has returned, Nightbirde is currently undergoing treatment and expressed excitement for continuing the America’s Got Talent competition. She said in an interview, “Physically, I’m doing really well. Again, for me it’s just like miracle after miracle after miracle. I just finished up some treatments a week ago and the doctors are anticipating that it’s going to take care of everything that was left over. We won’t be able to test — it’s too early to really check. It’ll be a few more months until we can go back in and see what’s going on. But I’m expecting good news, I really am.”
She also explained the story behind her stage name, which was inspired by a recurring dream about birds singing outside her window. Once, thinking that she was dreaming again, Nightbirde discovered birds really were singing. She said, “The birds were singing as if it was morning but there was really no sign of the light yet. And I wanted to embody that. Being somebody that could sing through a dark time because I was so full of hope and assurance that there would be a morning.” There is no doubt that she has succeeded in being just that message of hope.