Nightbirde drops out of ‘America’s Got Talent’ to focus on cancer battle

Nightbirde on 'America's Got Talent' (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Nightbirde on ‘America’s Got Talent’ (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

This season of America’s Got Talent has featured many memorable and heartrending auditions, but it was 30-year-old singer-songwriter and three-time cancer survivor Jane Marczewski, a.k.a. Nightbirde, who moved the usually stoic Simon Cowell to tears. Her elegant performance of her ethereal original ballad “It’s OK” even earned Cowell’s Golden Buzzer, thus fast-tracking her straight to this Season 16’s live shows. 

But when the live rounds kick off Aug. 10, Nightbirde will not be competing after all. On Monday, she announced that she is leaving AGT to focus on her ongoing cancer treatment.

“Sharing my heart with the world on ‘AGT’ has been an honor and a dream come true. My point of view this summer has been astounding. What a miracle that the pain I’ve walked through can be reworked into beauty that makes people all over the world open their eyes wider,” the folk-pop chanteuse posted on Instagram. “Since my audition, my health has taken a turn for the worse and the fight with cancer is demanding all of my energy and attention. I am so sad to announce that I won’t be able to continue forward on this season of ‘AGT.’ Life doesn’t always give breaks to those that deserve it — but we knew that already. Thank you for all your support, it means the world to me. Stay with me, I’ll be better soon. I’m planning my future, not my legacy. Pretty beat up, but I’ve still got dreams.”

When Nightbirde’s AGT audition aired this past June, she took the stage looking physically thin and frail, but she exuded such a sense of serenity and strength that when she revealed that she had “some cancer in my lungs and spine and my liver” and doctors had given her only a 2 percent chance of survival, crestfallen judge Howie Mandel gasped, “So… you’re not OK?” She answered, very calmly: “Well, not in every way, no.”

While she didn’t share any more details of her cancer battle on the air, a blog post on her website chronicled her harrowing ordeal. On New Year’s Eve 2019, Marczewski was diagnosed with terminal cancer after “innumerable tumors” were found on her lungs, liver, lymph nodes, ribs, and spine, and she was told she had six months to live. In July 2020 she went into remission, but tragically, the cancer soon returned. “I have had cancer three times now, and I have barely passed 30,” the singer’s blog post read. “There are times when I wonder what I must have done to deserve such a story. I fear sometimes that when I die and meet with God, that He will say I disappointed Him, or offended Him, or failed Him. Maybe He’ll say I just never learned the lesson, or that I wasn’t grateful enough. But one thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me.”

Nightbirde’s raw yet eloquent way with words translated to the lyrics of “It’s OK,” and her AGT audition was so raw and quietly compelling that when she finished by shyly backing away from the microphone, there was a long, astounded pause — before a choked-up Cowell stammered a simple “Wow,” called her “absolutely stunning,” and hit his Golden Buzzer. Marczewski then dropped to her knees, sobbing with joy, as Cowell went onstage to embrace her. Later, Cowell told his fellow judges, “God, that really got me,” still seemingly dazed by what he had just witnessed.

It isn’t clear what sort of treatment Marczewski is undergoing at the moment; if another one of the 150 AGT contestants who successfully auditioned this season will automatically take her vacated spot; or if Marczewski can return to the show (perhaps in a future season) once she is hopefully feeling stronger. But one thing is certain: Nightbirde is a fighter. Backstage after her audition on that emotional June evening, she told AGT host Terry Crews, “I have a 2 percent chance of survival, but 2 percent is not zero percent. Two percent is something, and I wish people knew how amazing it is.”

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