She’d been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2013, when she took a break from touring to undergo extensive surgery and chemotherapy, Fresh Air wrote earlier this year. The cancer went into remission, but returned this year.
She told Terry Gross about the difficulty of her treatment:
“I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t get air because, people didn’t realize, I was cut across the diaphragm, all the way up from right under the center under my breasts, all the way down to the top of my navel, almost.”
Even after she returned to the stage, she told Terry, she didn’t feel like the band’s dynamic performances were the same.
“That energy, I mean, everyone said my energy was great, but I didn’t feel it at all. Even now, the days on the stage I’m just not myself, I don’t have that energy. The legs doesn’t lift up like I want to with the pain, the neuropathy from certain chemo. It’s a hinder, but I do the shows, but it’s not the same.”
Jones went through treatment again this year while continuing to perform, but the band had to cancel a European tour this past summer because of a medical procedure Jones needed.
Jones grew up the youngest of six children in Jim Crow-era Georgia, NPR’s Mandalit Del Barco reports on All Things Considered. And even after she moved to Brooklyn, she continued to confront prejudice while trying to make it in the music business. She was told she was “too short,” “too black” and “too fat,” she told Terry.