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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Chip Esten Reflects on Daughter's Health Crisis

  • The "Nashville" heartthrob reflects on his daughter's leukemia battle, what it means to live the good life, and how he relates to his onscreen character, Deacon.
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  • You might recognize Charles “Chip” Esten as the alcoholic, brooding guitarist Deacon Claybourne on ABC’s hit series Nashville, but aside from a shared musical talent, Esten has very little in common with his onscreen alter ego. In real life, the actor and comedian is a refreshingly down-to-earth family man who can frequently be spotted around Music City with his wife and three kids in tow. “I’m very different than Deacon in many, many ways, but there’s a lot of ‘there but for the grace of God go I,’” Esten explains. “He’s had it harder than I’ve probably had it, so it’s taken its toll, and he’s got his demons that he battles; and I guess everybody does, but I’m pretty different. I’m glad for it.” Like his rough-hewn TV character, Esten is no stranger to hardship. Over a decade ago, Esten’s life was turned upside down when his then 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Addie, was diagnosed with leukemia. Thankfully Addie, now 14, survived, but Esten’s life outlook was forever altered. On May 7, the actor will be performing a free concert in Washington, D.C., as part of a three day event hosted by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), centered around a critical call-to-action: Leading the Way to a World without Blood Cancers. We chatted with the Southern heartthrob to learn more about his daughter’s battle with leukemia, working on the set of Nashville and more. Spry Living: More than a decade ago, your daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2. Can you take us back to the moment when you first heard the news? Chip Esten: I remember it quite distinctly: We were all sitting in the hospital room…my wife, Addie, and our other two other kids, [Chase and Taylor], who were 4 and 6 at the time. Addie was lying in the hospital bed, and [Chase and Taylor] were coloring in the bed with her. The doctor came in and summoned me out into the hallway. When she broke the news to me that Addie had leukemia, time stood still. I just stood there, trying to wrap my head around it, but it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around something like that. The doctor kept on talking. She told me about the available treatments and the 85% survival rate and why we had every reason to believe that Addie was going to be fine. But to me, that 15% mortality rate seemed gigantic. I thought, “What if Addie is one of the 15%?” After [the doctor] left, I went into the room and called my wife out into the hallway. I told her the news, and we immediately sort of collapsed into each other. We sat like that for what seemed like an eternity, but it was probably no more than a minute. We wiped our faces and gathered our emotions and walked back into the room, where we broke up a fight between the kids over magic markers. That was one of the blessings of having the other children throughout this experience. You’re still a parent; you still need to show up and give your kids the stability they need. It’s those normal things that are the odd little blessings, the things that keep you focused on the moment and keep you from totally sinking into despair. SL: What kind of symptoms was Addie having? CE: Looking back, I realize that she had been very pale and listless. She had what we now know was petechiae—little tiny dots on her body. We took her to Cedars-Sinai, and the doctor listed a few of the possible conditions it could be. Leukemia was on the list. Hearing that right off the bat gave us some time to mentally prepare for the worst, in a way. [caption id="attachment_119172" align="alignnone" width="493"] This article originally appeared as on Spry Living

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