04/27/2012 05:38 pm ET Updated Jun 27, 2012

How I'm Still Saying Thank You To St. Jude's Hospital Research

I will never forget the time my brother and I were sitting in my truck eating a cheeseburger and I kept looking in the mirror because I had this lump under my chin.

I told my brother, "Man, I'm getting a double chin, but it's really, really hard."

My brother felt it and said, "That's a knot. You need to get that checked out. It might be cancer."

I didn't think anything more about it, but he ratted me out to my parents!

They took me to our local doctor who recommended surgery to remove it, which I did. After the surgery, he said everything went well, but he was concerned about the cyst because it looked red and inflamed. He said it was probably nothing but wanted to send it off for a biopsy.

About a week later, the doctor called and said he needed to see us in his office. I remember the doctor looking across the table at me and said, "Darren you have non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and you have less than a 50 percent chance to live."

He said he didn't treat many kids like me, so he wanted to send me to the best place in the world, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

We went to St. Jude and I started my chemotherapy treatment on Jan. 5, 1999, when I was just 16-years-old. I'll never forget walking into St. Jude.

I stopped at the entrance and I looked straight up at that hospital, and I remember saying to myself quietly, "God, why are you putting me in this hell?"

Little did I know that hell became heaven on earth for me. I would not take anything for the experience of cancer. I don't care if you have cancer or you don't, there are things that come at you that are stumbling blocks. If we can take them and make them stepping stones, we can help more people and do things to change people's lives.

From January 1999 to August of 2001 I had more than 120 chemotherapy treatments, and last August I celebrated 10 years in remission.

I'm a lucky guy. I really, really honest to God feel that way. Yes, there have been bumps in the road. There have been bumps in everybody's road, but I feel like I've been blessed beyond measure.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness about St. Jude by performing at the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tenn., on April 28. I will be at the finish line stage at LP
Field and during the post-race concert on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.

This is one more way that I am able to give back. Going back to St. Jude with my guitar to meet the patients and sing songs like "Old McDonald Had a Farm" might sound small to a lot of people, but to me, that's what it's all about.

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