The 300 UCLA cancer biology students shifted in their seats as they waited for class to begin. Then came a loud knock on the door and in walked a surprise guest professor — Melissa Etheridge.
“Good afternoon,” Etheridge said Wednesday afternoon as she smiled at the undergraduates.
Some students gasped, others clapped.
For an hour, the 44-year-old singer delved into her emotional, yearlong battle with breast cancer — from the rousing performance she delivered at the Grammy Awards in February to hating chemotherapy and having to tell her children she might die.
“I’ve been a rock star since you were very young,” said Etheridge. “But I’ve never encountered anything as powerful as cancer.”
The visit, filmed for MTV’s college network mtvU, will air Oct. 17.
“We’re all a big fan of hers. We’re looking for icons,” mtvU’s Stephen Friedman said.
Mostly female students questioned Etheridge, and her frank responses drew laughter — and tears.
“Were you afraid to die?” asked one student.
“I don’t fear death. I have a lot more to do,” Etheridge answered.
Of what it was like to go through chemotherapy and surgery, Etheridge pointed to her scars and said even her ears hurt during treatment.
“I couldn’t turn music on, which broke my heart,” she said.
Other guest professors on mtvU’s “Stand-In” series have included Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Shimon Peres, Tom Wolfe and Marilyn Manson.