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Gladys Knight clarifies remark at funeral: She had breast cancer

George Hunter and Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
Gladys Knight performs during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple.

Legendary songstress Gladys Knight clarified remarks Friday about her final conversation with Aretha Franklin after she said the singers "shared the fact that we had the same disease."

"I'd like to clarify that Aretha and I discussed both of us having cancer, mine was stage 1 breast cancer and hers was pancreatic," said Knight said late Friday through her publicist, Jay D. Schwartz.

"Due to early detection, I am cancer free and grateful for that. It is unfortunate that on a day we should be celebrating Aretha's life and massive contribution to our world, a reporter who did not relay accurate information has missed the message. I send my love to the entire Franklin family and my gratitude to them for sharing such an extraordinary person with us."  

Knight made the comments as she entered the funeral of Franklin, who died after a long bout with pancreatic cancer.

In an earlier version of this story, The News incorrectly reported that Knight said she had pancreatic cancer.

Knight, 74, made her comments to WDIV-TV (Channel 4) and other journalists as she entered Greater Grace Temple for Franklin's funeral. 

Knight said their final conversation happened after both singers discovered to their surprise that they were staying at the same hotel.

"We just got to talking and everything and at that time we shared the fact that we had the same disease,"  the seven-time Grammy Award winner said during a live broadcast with the Detroit TV station.

Schwartz told The Detroit News on Friday afternoon that Knight "does not have pancreatic cancer. She is fine."

During a surprise performance at the end of the funeral, Knight said a few words before performing "You'll Never Walk Alone," which was originally a show tune from the 1945 musical "Carousel," but one that Franklin recorded in 1972 for her live album "Amazing Grace. "

"It's been a great journey and He knows our every need, everywhere we are, and He gives us the remedies to everything, one way or the other," Knight said. "Cause He loves us like that. Even in our music, He sends us messages. And the little pain we feel right now, we can put it toward (this)."

Franklin, who publicly confirmed her diagnosis in late 2010, and asked her audience for prayers following a free performance in Detroit in June 2017, survived pancreatic cancer for nearly eight years before she died last week — far longer than normal, medical experts say.

Only 20 percent of those diagnosed with the disease live beyond one year, while only 7 percent survive five years after being diagnosed, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and a medical oncologist and epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta told The News.

During a Monday interview with Us Weekly in which Knight shared her memories of Franklin, she did not disclose any personal illnesses, but discussed the finite nature of life.

"The Lord tells us where we are going and tells us when we are coming," Knight said. "So I’m not overly upset about (Franklin's death), and he knows how much each one of us can bear, and he calls us home with those things in mind. That’s the way I feel about it, because he loves us like that.”
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