In her newest book, Rock and Roll LEGEND, Tina Turner gives us what is probably the closest look into her life, post-Ike Turner, than we've ever seen. She details how she first met her new husband, how she felt like an "old fool" trying to start dating at 46 and how it was his love for her that saved her life.
Nearly three months after the death of her oldest son, Craig Turner, Tina Turner has opened her life to the public again.
In "My Love Story", she writes from her own perspective, letting the reader know exactly how she was feeling at each moment. The revelation that her health was in danger came just three months after their long awaited wedding. The "What's Love Got To Do With It?" singer says that she "woke up and felt a lightning bolt strike my head and right leg. I tried to speak but I couldn’t get any words out.
I was having a stroke."
Turner had been diagnosed with having high blood pressure and been on medications for it since 1985.
"Dr Jorg Bleisch, an expert nephrologist, broke the news that my kidneys were performing at only 35 per cent of their normal function.
We’d need to monitor them carefully, he said, prescribing yet more medication to control my blood pressure.
What I didn’t realise was that there were bigger battles ahead. Battles that would leave me wondering: ‘How did I go from being the picture of health, a cover girl, a bride for God’s sake, to this?’ After a while, I began to resent the drugs I was taking to control my high blood pressure — I was certain they were making me feel less clear-headed and energetic.
So when a friend recommended a homeopathic doctor in France, I decided to put my faith in another kind of healing.
The homeopath — who replaced my conventional medicines with homeopathic remedies — suggested that my body was being affected adversely by toxins in the water supply at the Château Algonquin. Eager to try a new approach, no matter how far-fetched, I replaced all the pipes in the house and had our water purified by crystals.
The new treatments actually made me feel better. But I knew my doctors wouldn’t approve, so I took the coward’s way out: I simply didn’t tell them.
The trouble started when I went to see Dr Bleisch for another check-up. I felt fine, so I expected good news. That’s why I decided it was time to confess to what I’d done.
Big mistake. Big, big, mistake. He seemed shocked and incredulous. My failure to treat my high blood pressure, he told me, had essentially destroyed my kidneys.
If I’d known that unmanaged high blood pressure could accelerate kidney damage, of course, I wouldn’t have traded my medication for homoeopathic alternatives. As it was, the consequences of my ignorance ended up being a matter of life and death.
Let me be clear: I’m not condemning homeopathy. In fact, I was treated successfully by a homeopathic doctor after being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1969. But this time I was much older, with a serious long- term illness that needed conventional treatment.
If only I hadn’t discontinued the medication. If, if, if! My foolish decision would continue to haunt me, yet Erwin never once reproached me for it.
Not long after this blow, my health began to fail again. I became so weak that I couldn’t leave the house; it took all my strength to stagger between bedroom and bathroom.
This time, I was diagnosed with early-stage intestinal cancer — a carcinoma and several malignant polyps. As I waited for surgery, I cried to Erwin: ‘Aren’t you sorry you married an old woman?’
Fortunately for me, he always radiated confidence, optimism and joie de vivre, and helped me to keep calm.
A month after my diagnosis, I had part of my intestine removed. The doctors were optimistic and I felt a glimmer of hope again. But just a glimmer, and only for a moment.
By December 2016, my kidneys were at a new low of 20 per cent and plunging rapidly. And I faced two choices: either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Only the transplant would give me a very good chance of leading a near-normal life. But the chances of getting a donor kidney were remote.
At the time, Switzerland’s organ-donor rate was one of the lowest in Europe — which meant that, at 75, I’d probably never rise to the top of the waiting list.
So Dr Bleisch scheduled me to start dialysis. ‘Oh no, no, no,’ I told him. ‘I’m not living on a machine.’
It wasn’t my idea of life. But the toxins in my body had started taking over. I couldn’t eat. I was surviving, but not living.
I began to think about death. If my kidneys were going, and it was time for me to die, I could accept that. It was OK. When it’s time, it’s really time. I didn’t mind the thought of dying, but I was concerned about how I would go.
One of the benefits of living in Switzerland is that assisted suicide is legal, though the patient has to inject the lethal drug herself.
There are several organisations that facilitate the process, including Exit and Dignitas. I signed up to be a member of Exit, just in case.
I think that’s when the idea of my death became a reality for Erwin. He was very emotional about not wanting to lose me, not wanting me to leave.
He said he didn’t want another woman, or another life; we were happy and he’d do anything to keep us together.
Then he shocked me. He said that he wanted to give me one of his kidneys.
I was overwhelmed by the enormity of his offer. But because I love him, my first response was to try to talk him out of taking such a serious and irreversible step.
He was a young man. Why should he take such a risk to give an older woman a few extra years? What if he had a problem some day with his remaining kidney?
‘Darling, you’re young. Don’t, don’t, don’t interfere with your life. Think about your own future,’ I urged. But Erwin had made up his mind. ‘My future is our future,’ he told me.
At the University Hospital of Basel, Erwin had to go through a battery of psychological tests to make sure he was donating a kidney for the right reasons.
As I’d expected, the doctors accepted that he knew what he was doing. Erwin always knows exactly what he’s doing; that’s his nature. His offer to give me his kidney was a gift of love, and he remained unflappable and relaxed. Next, there were medical tests to determine our compatibility, and we got the encouraging news that we shared the same type A blood group. Meanwhile, all I could hear was the clock ticking. I couldn’t afford to lose a bit of my strength, energy or courage.
I was already a high-risk patient because of my recent cancer, but the risk escalated when tests showed that my heart had been damaged by so many years of high blood pressure: the muscle was enlarged and the vessels calcified.
There was some question about whether a weak heart could withstand the stress of surgery.
But ultimately our big day was scheduled: April 7, 2017. Two operating theatres were prepared — one for the donor and one for the recipient — two surgical teams, two of everything. Erwin’s operation took place first. While I was understandably anxious about the transplant, I was far more concerned about him. After about an hour, it was my turn.
When I awoke, I was so groggy that everything — lights, sounds, smatterings of conversation, visits from doctors and nurses — felt dream-like.
It took me a while to understand that I was in Intensive Care, surrounded by what seemed like 100 machines, starting my new life as a woman with a healthy kidney. The following day, after a few tentative stretches of my fingers and toes, I realised that I felt fine.
The best moment was when Erwin came rolling into my room in his wheelchair.
He somehow managed to look good, even handsome, as he greeted me with an energetic: ‘Hi, darling!’ I was so emotional — happy, overwhelmed and relieved that we’d come through this alive.
I was discharged after only seven days, and Erwin’s recovery was even faster.
He snapped right back to his old self, and within a few weeks was enjoying his first glass of wine.
He’s been full speed ahead ever since. I, on the other hand, have experienced ups and downs.
My body keeps trying to reject the new kidney, which is not uncommon after a transplant.
This means I have to take strong doses of immunosuppressants to weaken my antibodies and prevent them from attacking an organ they don’t recognise.
Sometimes, the treatment — which causes dizziness, forgetfulness and anxiety — involves spending more time in hospital.
Last year, as Christmas approached, I started feeling more energetic. I’m not trying to tempt fate, though — I know that my medical adventure is far from over. After a transplant, it seems that there’s always another test, another doctor’s appointment or biopsy to get through.
But I’m still here. We’re both still here, closer than we ever imagined — and that’s cause for celebration.
Erwin knew that the old Tina was back at last when I got excited about putting up Christmas ornaments and ordering new tables for the living room.
After so many years of being frightened and sick, I was revelling in the sheer joy of being alive."
When referencing the love of her husband and how it came to be she said:
"I wasn’t looking for a husband; I just wanted to be loved. Childhood — never loved. Past relationships — never loved. My whole life — never really loved. More than anything, I needed to feel that Erwin loved me. And he did. He really did."
Wow. . . This really adds another level to love. Tina Turner's new book "My Love Story" is due out on October 16, 2018 and it'll even be available on Audible. For a woman who was born in Nutbush, Tennessee, she has surely lived a fantastic life full of tremendous experiences.