Gabriel Olsen, FilmMagic

When Craig Campbell and Alan Jackson took the stage last night at the Ryman Auditorium for the Colon Cancer Alliance's 5th annual Stars Go Blue benefit, it was more than just a chance to help a worthy cause, it was very personal.

When Craig was just 11, his father died of colon cancer at age 36. For Alan and Denise Jackson, this spring marks two years since she finished treatment and was declared cancer free after battling the disease with chemo and radiation.

Backstage before the show, the couple talked to reporters about the harrowing experience. "You've just got to be there for them," Alan said when asked what advice he'd give spouses helping their loved ones fight the disease. "Be supportive. That's just what she needed was somebody to lean on."

Denise recalls Alan helping her process all the information she'd get at her doctor's appointments. "[I would] ask him over and over when I'd have those moments of panic and doubt -- which do come -- 'What did the doctor say?'" Denise shared. "He would say, 'Remember, this is what she said.'"

Alan recalls Denise being affected by the medication, which made it hard for her to remember conversations with her doctors. "When she'd come out of her procedures, half the time she's goofy, and the doctor talks to you so I'd have to remember it and then she'd ask about it over and over and over," Alan said, glancing at Denise with a big grin.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and 100% of the proceeds from the sold-out concert will benefit the Blue Note Fund, a non-profit organization founded by Grammy-nominated producer Charlie Kelley to help colon cancer patients.

Denise is open about her experience and willing to help others battling the disease. "For me [it's] just trying to minister to other people," she says, noting that she often shares her insights on "diet, how to handle radiation, skin issues and those kind of things, and spiritually, being able to often them the promises of God's word and claiming the promises he says are for us if we ask and believe."

Before the show, Craig shared a little about his family's history with the disease. "My dad passed away at the age of 36 from colon cancer, so I've been having colonoscopies," he says. "I've had two. I had one at age 26."

Craig, Alan and Denise are advocates for following doctor's advice on getting colonoscopies, as early detection is critical to increasing chances of survival. Craig made mention during his opening set that "prep" for a colonoscopy was no fun, but encouraged the audience to be checked.

Despite the seriousness of the cause, Stars Go Blue was a celebratory evening of great music. Craig served up his breakthrough hit "Family Man," as well as his latest single "Outta My Head." Denise brought her award-winning husband to the stage with a heartfelt introduction which he said was going to be hard to live up to, but he did. Alan had the audience on its feet during much of the evening as he served up 23 tunes, including such hits as "Drive," "Don't Rock the Jukebox," "Little Bitty," "Five O'Clock Somewhere," "Chattahoochee," and "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." The most emotional point in the evening came when Alan delivered an acoustic performance of "When I Saw You Leaving," a song on his Thirty Miles West album that he wrote about how he felt during Denise's battle with cancer. Alan had only sang it when he wrote it and when he recorded it in the studio, making this his only public performance of the poignant ballad.

"I never played it for her, never mentioned it until I had the cut done," Alan says, "and then I played it for her. She cried. Most everybody does that knows what it's about."

These days Denise is cancer-free and the couple is thankful and happy to help raise awareness of the disease in the hope that other lives can be saved. "I was glad to do it," Alan says of the Stars Go Blue Benefit. "Denise asked me to do it and I didn't blink an eye. Of course I do it for her."

Ed Rode

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