Jo Dee Messina admits that she was a little shocked when she got a call inviting her to perform on the Nissan Stadium stage at CMA Fest 2019. The singer announced in 2017 that she had been diagnosed with cancer, and took a step back from her career in order to focus on her health. As she battled the disease, Messina thought the country music community might have forgotten her.

"I have been so buried with trying to stay alive," the singer tearfully explains. "So you feel forgotten, because every day you're trying to get through tests, or you're trying to get through screenings -- or you're trying to raise 7- and 10-year old boys."

During this time, Messina also split from her husband, Chris Deffanbaugh, as reported by OneCountry in 2018. Subsequently, she had to adjust to juggling her own health journey with her new family dynamic. "I'm a single mom now, so life never stops," the singer adds.

When she learned that the Country Music Association wanted her to perform at their festival -- and on its biggest stage, no less -- she felt grateful to the country community. "I've started a new medicine [recently], and it has not been easy. There are days when I have to sleep in the midst of the day to get through the day. So when I got the call, I was like, 'They remembered me,'" Messina says. "Here I am, just trying to get to tomorrow, and the CMA reached out and was like, 'Hey, we want you to perform on the big stage.' And my heart is so filled with gratitude."

Messina has always loved her fans, even if she tries to keep some of the more difficult details of her personal life out of the spotlight. "Not a lot of [my life in the past five years] goes out to the press ... because a lot of it is painful. A lot of it is hurtful. A lot of it is scary," she explains. Through every challenge, however, the singer's spirits have been bolstered by her newfound relationship with her faith.

"About five years ago, Jesus Christ walked onto my front porch, and he was like, 'She's mine,'" Messina recalls. "I was at an all-time low. I was trying to sustain a career and a lifestyle and a family, all on my own, and I couldn't do it. I was pulled way too thin."

At the time, Messina didn't know all that much about Christianity. As she delved deeper into spirituality, she turned to someone close by who could help answer the questions she had about faith.

"My next door neighbor happened to be Steve Green, who's a Christian singer. I started going over there and I was like, 'Steve ... I want you to tell me about Jesus,'" Messina continues. "I knew the story, you know, [about how He was] born on Christmas and died on Easter, you know what I mean? But I didn't know Him."

Finding a relationship with her faith changed everything for Messina, and shifted the way she thought about her career. Now, she wants to celebrate her relationship with God, and spread His message in her music. She released a song called "Reckless Love" to Christian radio, and though she doubted that the country format would welcome such a faith-centric message, the singer believes that the message behind the track is bigger than genre.

"We can't format God, you know?" she adds. "So I recorded it, and I pray at some point there's a major label that is brave enough to pick it up and release it ... I pray that, one day, someone does get that message out there."

Messina is quick to clarify that she's no longer interested in finding celebrity for her own sake: Instead, she wants to use her platform to spread her message of faith.

"I spent my entire career, my entire life, glorifying myself," she relates. "It's time for Him. He gets the glory from this point on."

Messina has suffered a series of devastating blows in recent years, but finding faith gives her courage. "When you are going through a hard time in your family situation, and you are diagnosed with cancer, and you don't know what's gonna lie around the next corner, and you have the arms of Jesus there holding you -- you never want to walk away from that," she concludes, eyes shining.

Country Stars Who Stand Up Against Cancer

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