Is Carly Simon sick? A detailed look at her health

Carly Simon

Late 2022 has been a period of triumph and tragedy for celebrated singer and songwriter Carly Simon. On the one hand, she was, perhaps belatedly, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; on the other, she lost her two sisters – Joanna and Lucy – within a day of each other due to cancer

“I am filled with sorrow to speak about the passing of Joanna and Lucy Simon. Their loss will be long and haunting. As sad as this day is, it’s impossible to mourn them without celebrating their incredible lives that they lived.”

Chemotherapy and surgery eliminated Simon’s breast cancer

Carly Simon was diagnosed with breast cancer long before thyroid cancer and metastatic breast cancer killed Joanna and Lucy, respectively. 

Simon lived with a lump in her breast for ages as various doctors dismissed it as benign. She removed the cancerous lump at the urging of one doctor. She told The Independent:

“I didn’t insist on it coming out because I don’t like operations but towards the end it started to talk to me. I would be reading Tolstoy or cooking or exercising and I would hear it going, ‘Get me out of here!’”

Simon’s surgery coincided with the death of her long-time friend Linda McCartney, who battled breast cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy expelled cancer, which, thankfully, hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes, from Simon’s body. Simon told The Orlando Sentinel that she benefited from the therapy of songwriting:

“It’s the only way I know how to combine the various creative talents of mine – including the obsession with ‘how’ I am. I’m obsessive about self-analysis. I suppose it’s a good marriage for me to be therapeutic and creative at the same time. … It’s in my creativity that I get better.”

Carly wrote and recorded The Bedroom Tapes, her 18th studio album, in her bedroom while recuperating from cancer treatment. The album, a chart failure but a critical success, featured the single Scar, referencing her battle with cancer. 

“It’s after the knives and sutures and needles/I’m left with an arrow that points at my heart,” Carly sings. 

Simon suffers from anxiety, which has long affected her ability to perform before audiences

Carly Simon
Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Getty Images

Carly Simon started singing to overcome a stutter – she didn’t stutter when she harmonized her words. Simon said:

“When I was a young child, I had a stammer. And the only time it went away was when I sang. One day, my mother said to me, ‘Don’t speak it, sing it.’ And that’s what I did.”

Simon’s stutter was a blessing in disguise as it exposed her to her musical talents. Unfortunately, She also suffered from crippling anxiety, which made performing before audiences challenging. “I think it’s the whole experience of being in front of people, exposing yourself and your talent is so unnatural,” Simon told ABC News

Simon’s first major panic attack on stage was in the early 1960s as she performed with her sister Lucy. Despite her rising popularity, Simon’s live performances dwindled. In the early 1980s, panic struck during a show in Pittsburgh. 

Simon told the audience that she was having an anxiety attack; the audience supported her, encouraging her to keep going. However, during the second show in Pittsburgh, she collapsed before 10,000 fans. Simon told The New York Times:

“When the anxiety comes on, the adrenaline is so strong it topples me. I never know when it’s going to happen, except that the larger the audience, the more I feel I’ve got to lose. I really never wanted to be a performing artist. I just wanted to be a writer.”

Simon manages her stage anxiety by taking beta blockers, which slow her heart, engaging in rituals like digging her nails into her scalp and spanking herself. She explained:

“I don’t think the science thing works as well as doing something. I liked to be spanked and that sounds really kinky, but it’s not. I can do it with a rubber band. Yes, it works. It puts the pain I am feeling psychologically into my body. … It gets me out my head.”

When asked whether she would perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Simon’s reply suggested she still experiences panic attacks on stage. “I’m not going to put myself onstage and scare the hell out of myself,” Simon said.