In April 2015, Taylor Swift took the intimate relationship she had with her fans to the next level. The Grammy winner posted an entry on her Tumblr to announce her mom, Andrea Swift, a beloved figure amongst her fans, had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I'd like to keep the details of her condition and treatment plans private, but she wanted you to know,” Swift wrote. “She wanted you to know why she may not be at as many shows this tour. She's got an important battle to fight.”
Five years into her fight, it’s clear Andrea’s battle has only made her relationship with her superstar daughter stronger.
Andrea underwent a health screening as a Christmas present for her daughter
Swift surprised fans with the honest revelation, which came about after Swift asked her mom to get a series of health exams just in case.
“For Christmas this year, I asked my mom that one of her gifts to me be her going to the doctor to get screened for any health issues, just to ease some worries of mine. She agreed, and went in to get checked. There were no red flags and she felt perfectly fine, but she did it just to get me and my brother off her case about it,” Swift wrote.
However, when the results came in, they learned that Andrea had cancer. Swift and Andrea later kept the details of her treatment private, but Swift’s warning that her mother may not be around as much didn’t ultimately affect her role as Swift’s unofficial tour ambassador.
By the time Swift traveled the country in 2017 in support of her album reputation, Andrea was frequently spotted by fans who continued to wish her well.
Swift has included tributes to her mom on two albums
While Swift didn’t address her mom’s cancer in 2016’s reputation, she wrote an emotional tribute to her mom in her follow-up album Lover three years later.
Backed up by her childhood favorites The Chicks, Swift returned to her country roots for “Soon You’ll Get Better.” The ballad, softly-sung over a simple melody on the piano, tells of Swift’s fears, praying to “holy orange bottles” of medicine and how her mom “will get better / ‘cause you have to.”
“And I hate to make this all about me / But who am I supposed to talk to? / What am I supposed to do / If there's no you?” Swift ponders in the bridge before a shaky breath.
The fact that her mom is her best friend is a point Swift has made over and over, including a beautiful tribute to their relationship in “The Best Day,” featured on her second album Fearless.
“I love you for giving me your eyes / Staying back and watching me shine / And, I didn't know if you knew / So I'm taking this chance to say / That I had the best day with you today,” Swift sings.
Her mom's cancer returned in 2019
Shortly before Lover came out in August 2019, Swift revealed her mother had been diagnosed with cancer once again. It came in an essay for Elle magazine in which the star opened up about the 30 things she learned before she turned 30, including learning to only worry about the important things.
It also included the fact that her father had battled cancer sometime before.
“I’ve had to learn how to handle serious illness in my family. Both of my parents have had cancer, and my mom is now fighting her battle with it again,” Swift wrote. “It’s taught me that there are real problems and then there’s everything else. My mom’s cancer is a real problem. I used to be so anxious about daily ups and downs. I give all of my worry, stress, and prayers to real problems now.
Andrea's health problems continued when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor
Fans were once again shocked to learn Andrea was struggling with more cancer when Swift revealed her mom had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“While she was going through treatment, they found a brain tumor,” Swift told Variety in 2020 while promoting her documentary Miss Americana. “And the symptoms of what a person goes through when they have a brain tumor is nothing like what we’ve ever been through with her cancer before. So it’s just been a really hard time for us as a family.”
The singer also explained how her mom’s continuing health problems led her to only schedule select shows in 2020, instead of a whole tour, to promote Lover. (The dates would eventually be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic and Swift instead released a surprise eighth album, folklore.)
“I mean, we don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know what treatment we’re going to choose. It just was the decision to make at the time, for right now, for what’s going on,” Swift said of not wanting a tour to pull her away from home.
“Everyone loves their mom; everyone’s got an important mom,” she continued. “But for me, she’s really the guiding force. Almost every decision I make, I talk to her about it first. So obviously it was a really big deal to ever speak about her illness.”
But it hasn’t been all bad for Andrea. In a heartwarming scene in Miss Americana, Andrea happily sits next to a gigantic black-and-white spotted Great Dane. The dog is a bucket-list item she decided to bring into her famously feline-centered family after being diagnosed, dubbing it her “cancer dog.”
While the scene shows Swift looking on in mock horror, Andrea looks happy as can be, still showing off the glowing personality that has made her such a hit with fans.