A Year in the Life of a Dragonfly: Catching up with MJ Willis

Boy, do I have an update for you!

I heard one of my songs on the radio, I started my website and Patreon, I beat breast cancer for the second time, and we were transferred to Kansas.

Thank you MisSpoFAN for this anniversary check-in from my interview last year!

At the risk of sounding dramatic, this has been a pivotal year for me. I had just a few months left in the DC area when I was interviewed last year. In those few months, I started an internship at a local recording studio and became a producer on a weekly radio show that interviews artists from various disciplines. 

Inner Ear Studio, with its owner, Producer Don Zientara, has a historically significant place in music history. It was a pleasure and privilege to connect with the artists who came through to record and to see the professional process again and again. StageCraft, a radio show on WERA 96.7 in Arlington, VA became a collaborative outlet and inspiration to shape my direction and trajectory as an artist. I even created a subset of StageCraft, called StageCraft Rewind. I’ll include a link to one of my shows below. During this time, I ended one of these “Rewind” shows with an original song of mine. I was excited to hear it broadcast on the airwaves but was even more excited when someone from WERA contacted me to get permission to play the song during other radio show hours. This made my debut even more legit.

Last year I mentioned that I had joined a female rock band called MAAM. Since my interview last year, when MAAM played a gig – I soloed as the opening act. That stretched me in wonderful ways. 

One difficult thing about military family life is being uprooted. We all know this. Having integrated into the arts scene in the DC area made the transfer to Kansas even more complex for me. Our assignment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas was only supposed to last 10 months. However, just a few months into my husband’s training, my annual breast MRI revealed a suspicious lesion. I am only 41 years old. My first bout with breast cancer was when I was 24, and included surgeries, chemo, and radiation.

I found it early again and, this time, opted to remove the danger. In January 2022, I had a double mastectomy. It’s been 3 months and I have already had 3 surgeries because of complications that arose from my previous radiation and infection. However, I have continued to write music and am in the process of recording an album, gratefully still in close collaboration with my connections made in DC. I haven’t had a lot of time to integrate in the arts scene because of health issues here in Kansas, but I just started working with a vocal coach locally, and I am preparing to play some solo gigs at the local golf course and a winery.

Because of my cancer diagnosis, local military leadership has allowed my husband to change directions so we could stay in the area longer to finish my cancer care. This will also be his final military assignment as he will be retiring in 18 months. I know a lot of people complain about the military health care system, but it has served me well.

Like I said, it has been a pivotal year in every way. I recently posted on my MJ the Dragonfly social media accounts, “In the last three months I have faced, and fought cancer, covid – a global pandemic, and an infection that could have killed me because it is resistant to antibiotics. In 2022 I’m not effing around anymore. That much time in crisis, not knowing if I could count on a future, threw more fuel on this fire inside me. ❤️‍🔥 I don’t have time to burn. (I’ve got) songs to write. Talents to sharpen. Love to make. Food to savor. Muscles to strengthen. Relief to give. Lessons to learn. Lessons to teach. People to love…”

If you take anything away from this little check-in, let it be to 1) Savor “normal.” It is a beautiful thing – even with 5 children. 2) Early cancer detection saves lives. Schedule your mammogram. 3) There’s no time to lose. Make time to pursue your passions. The world needs what you have to offer. 4) Find your tribe, those who make your brand of “eccentric” – seem epic.

Find me:

Please follow me @MJtheDragonfly on Facebook and Instagram

Check out my website at www.mjthedragonfly.com

Or support me on my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/MJtheDragonfly

Join the StageCraft movement and be inspired. Listen to one of my radio show episodes: https://www.mixcloud.com/StageCraft/stagecraft-rewind-episode-ii/

And find StageCraft on Facebook and Instagram @FansOfStageCraft

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