Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have probably seen this viral America Got Talent’s (AGT) audition by now.
It’s a moving performance of an original song called “It’s Okay” by Jane Marczewski, who goes by the stage name Nightbirde.
I first discovered her when a friend of mine shared the clip, which has since been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube.
I was struck by what she said, standing on the stage: “2% of survival isn’t 0%. 2% is something and I wish people knew how amazing it is.”
Turns out, the effervescent 30-year-old contestant had actually been diagnosed with cancer in her lungs, spine and liver just last year.
The initial diagnosis had only given her six months to live — “It’s Okay” was written out of that difficult period.
But standing under the lights of the AGT stage, Marczewski’s glowing positivity was a breath of fresh air amid all the bad news and headlines these days.
As AGT judge Howie Mandel put it: “You’ve got a beautiful smile and a beautiful glow. Nobody would know.”
In a way, he was right. Death clearly had no grip on Marczewski, not with her looking so radiant and full of life.
I am God’s downstairs neighbour, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick.
Truth is, most people don’t know the full extent of what Marczewski went through.
While she was battling with cancer, she was concurrently going through a divorce she didn’t want.
“I’ve been on a really hard journey and a lot of that journey, I walked out alone or at least in secret,” she revealed in an interview.
“There are a lot of hard battles that you fight within yourself to be positive, to stay present in this world when it hurts really bad.”
On her blog, the three-time cancer survivor described how the latest battle against cancer was like.
“I spent three months propped against the wall,” wrote Marczewski. “On nights that I could not sleep, I laid in the tub like an insect, staring at my reflection in the shower knob.
“I vomited until I was hollow. I rolled up under my robe on the tile. The bathroom floor became my place to hide, where I could scream and be ugly; where I could sob and spit and eventually doze off, happy to be asleep, even with my head on the toilet.”
Despite Marczewski’s detailed recount of her battles, no one could be able to say they know what she had experienced.
Except perhaps for God.
In her desperation, she had cursed God. But she had also called out for Him through her tears day and night, sunset to sunrise.
One thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me.
“I am God’s downstairs neighbour, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick,” she journalled.
“I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.
“I fear sometimes that when I die and meet with God, that He will say I disappointed Him, or offended Him, or failed Him…
“But one thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me.”
While Marczewski may not fully understand why she has had to go such painful struggles, she is certain about one thing — that God is always with her.
She explained: “When it comes to pain, God isn’t often in the business of taking it away. Instead, he adds to it. He is more of a giver than a taker. He doesn’t take away my darkness, he adds light. He doesn’t spare me of thirst, he brings water. He doesn’t cure my loneliness, he comes near.”
Why do we believe that when we are in pain, it must mean God is far?
After all, this is a God who drew Himself to emptiness and created something out of nothing, reflected Marczewski.
Taking comfort from the creation narrative, she continued, “He stretched out His spirit over the void, and He stayed.
“If the stories I’ve heard of Him are true, surely He is nearest of all, to me. To us. You see, the Creator is still here, where He has always been, hovering over the emptiness.”
“So why do we believe that when we are in pain, it must mean God is far?”
Even though her world seemed to have crumbled around her, God was there with her.
Her body may be broken and battered, but God was there on her bathroom floor.
It’s been more than a year since Marczewski’s diagnosis. At the point of writing, her cancer is back and she is receiving treatment.
But though her body may have taken a hit, her spirit has not.
“For me, it’s just miracles after miracles after miracles,” said the 30-year-old in an interview with a smile. “I just finished some treatments a week ago and the doctors are anticipating that it’s going to take care of everything that is left over.
“It’s too early to really check… but I’m expecting good news, I really am.”
Marczewski then went on to share the significance behind her stage name, Nightbirde.
“I had the same dream three nights in a row. And in my dreams, I woke up and there were birds singing outside my windows in the dark,” she said.
On the third night, she woke up to find her dream had come true — there were indeed birds singing outside her window at 3 am!
“The birds were singing as if it was morning but there was really no sign of the light yet,” Marczewski recalled.
“And I wanted to embody that — being somebody that could sing through a dark time because I was so full of hope and assurance that there would be a morning.”
Featured image taken from Nightbirde’s twitter account.
- What is the greatest struggle you are facing right now?
- Take it to the Lord in prayer.
- It’s going to be okay. 🙂