Gloria Gaynor, perhaps best known for her 1978 smash hit, “I Will Survive,” has an incredible story of perseverance and healing after four decades of living with chronic back pain.
At age 69, Gaynor said that thanks to a life-changing spinal surgery, she is dancing once again, pain-free for the first time in 41 years.
While many people hail the disco tune “I Will Survive,” as an anthem of determination and grit, fewer know that Gaynor has her own story of survival, stemming from a traumatic back injury in 1978.
Gaynor’s energizing dance routines came to a grinding halt in 1978 when she fell during a choreography routine at New York City’s Beacon Theatre.
Once known as “The Queen of Disco,” it was uncertain whether or not the queen would ever dance again.
“The next morning, I woke up paralyzed from the waist down,” Gaynor told People. “I called my boyfriend and said, ‘Please come — I can’t move my legs.’”
Gloria Gaynor Reveals She Underwent Risky Spine Surgery: ‘I Thought I Was Going to Die’ https://t.co/DFcddVVl9B
— People (@people) June 5, 2019
Gaynor had spinal surgery that same year, which did help her walk again, but she spent the next four decades enduring additional surgeries, endless back pain, and fear as Gaynor grappled with her new life.
She recalled the day that she was in so much pain, she was fed up with life. After walking a short distance to a New York City restaurant in 2017, the pain became unbearable.
“By the time I got there, I was in excruciating pain,” she said. “I couldn’t have taken another step.”
“This is it,” she recalled saying to herself. “I can’t live like this.”
She sought out Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, a spinal surgeon in Los Angeles. Melamed performed a complicated, risky surgery on Gaynor’s spine in January 2018.
“I had to perform one of the most difficult surgeries [involving] breaking her spine then reconstructing it,” Melamed told People. “This procedure is [rare] because it is so complex and requires a great deal of precision.”
But the procedure worked. Gaynor said that she recently attended a wedding and was able to dance her heart out, free from pain.
Through her years of suffering, Gaynor has kept her eyes on God, a message she hopes to convey in her newest album.
“I prayed that God would use the doctor’s hands as his hands, and I have no doubt that he did.”
Now, Gaynor can look back on her decades of pain and crack a joke:
“First I was afraid. I was petrified,” she laughed, quoting the lyrics from her famous song.
“I Will Survive” has become Gaynor’s personal mantra over the years.
“This song has become the core of my purpose,” Gaynor said in a June 11 interview with “Today.”
Her purpose, she said, is ”to bring hope, to bring encouragement, to bring empowerment, inspiration to people.”
Gaynor is celebrating the release of her newest album, “Testimony.” She told “Today” that “Testimony,” will explain what “I Will Survive” never told — exactly how she went about surviving.
The gospel album will share the singer’s faith in God, who she looked to for strength during her decades of pain.
Gaynor is looking to the future with enthusiasm, telling “Today” that she has so much in life that she is looking forward to — perhaps even starting her own cooking show.
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