'Medical miracle' Jebry still singing in Naples, thanks to fans, doctors, and a great attitude

Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 People take the dance floor as Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff People take the dance floor as Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Jebry performs along side Art Blatt, middle, and Bob McInnis at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Jebry performs along side Art Blatt, middle, and Bob McInnis at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 People take the dance floor as Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff People take the dance floor as Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Jebry looks out at the crowd while she performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012. Jebry has had a slue of illnesses over the years and has overcome them all including her most recent illness, a brain tumor. 'You gotta earn the right to live,' Jebry said.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Jebry looks out at the crowd while she performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012. Jebry has had a slue of illnesses over the years and has overcome them all including her most recent illness, a brain tumor. "You gotta earn the right to live," Jebry said.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Along side Jebry is band members drummer and husband, Bobby Phillips, from left, Carlo Fusaro, bass, and Jean Packard, on piano performing at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Along side Jebry is band members drummer and husband, Bobby Phillips, from left, Carlo Fusaro, bass, and Jean Packard, on piano performing at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Jebry looks out at the crowd while she performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012. Jebry has had a slue of illnesses over the years and has overcome them all including her most recent illness, a brain tumor. 'You gotta earn the right to live,' Jebry said.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Jebry looks out at the crowd while she performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012. Jebry has had a slue of illnesses over the years and has overcome them all including her most recent illness, a brain tumor. "You gotta earn the right to live," Jebry said.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 People take the dance floor as Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff People take the dance floor as Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Jebry performs at Mongello's Restaurant in East Naples on Monday Oct. 29, 2012.

Judith Elenore Branch, better known to her many fans and friends as the vivacious jazz singer "Jebry," has a side to her that much of the public doesn't know.

Jebry, a native of Hollywood, Calif., who transplanted to Naples 26 years ago, is a medical miracle. That's what her doctors say. She's had enough operations to support entire hospitals; one medical ailment after another since 1966.

And she's still singing.In her upbeat demeanor, Jebry shares an amazing medical journey and the secret to how she copes and overcomes the hurdles of her health conditions. Some have actually brought her close to death's door, beginning in 1966 with a ruptured appendix that demanded quick surgery to save her life. The latest was two months ago, when Jebry was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

It is the latest in a litany of health threats she has beaten back.

Jebry's ruptured appendix scare in 1966 was followed in '69 by surgery for throat nodules that almost cost her singing career.

Breast cancer struck the singer in 1985, but she persevered.

In 1996, she said, she learned she had lung cancer, which she also successfully battled. The following year, she had a total hysterectomy.

Then, in 2006, she suffered breast cancer a second time, this time undergoing a mastectomy. Her maternal grandmother had died of breast cancer in 1966 at age 68.

"My grandmother was too ashamed to tell anyone she had a lump in her breast. That's why I tell women, get your mammogram. And I tell everyone, listen to your body. If you don't feel right, it is trying to tell you something. Go get checked out," she declares.

It was a hot and humid Florida afternoon on Aug. 25, while Jebry was baking a pie at her home in the Kings Lake area of Naples, enjoying time off-stage with her longtime partner, band mate and husband of six years, Bobby Phillips. Jebry recalls that while standing in their kitchen, she started to feel nauseated and wobbly.

"I told Bobby I just wanted to lie down for a bit," she says. "But he took one look at me and he said 'no way'." As the pretty, blonde woman reflects back to that day, she flashes a smile and her hazel eyes shine, belying the story that follows.

"So Bobby took me straight to the hospital," she says, adding with a laugh, "He knows me pretty well."

Naples neurologist Mark Gerber, M.D., announced Jebry's latest diagnosis to her and Bobby; anaplastic oligodendroglioma.

It is a malignant, but extremely, brain tumor, sensitive to treatment with both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Gerber told the stunned couple that he's only known of two cases.

Two days later, on Aug. 27, Jebry had brain surgery to remove the tumor that doctors say had formed on her brain likely over the course of years. Recovering from surgery, she still wasn't out of the woods, and the journey for her prognosis started, and so that doctors could determine her future treatment, they sent her tests and films to the top brain and cancer specialists at Massachusetts General, Harvard, San Francisco and the Anderson Cancer Institute.

"My brain is traveling everywhere," she jokes.

Still, she doesn't show an ounce of fear, even in the face of this latest medical challenge.

Jebry, born into a musical family, began acting as a young girl, and had aspirations to be an actress. Her father thought college was a better idea.

Jebry says she only lasted a year in college before hitting the road in 1966, when she joined Harry James' band and began traveling the world. She was 21 at the time, and began to develop what she is known for today, her "leather and lace" jazz singing voice.

And her positive attitude.

"Attitude is everything," says Jebry.

"Humor is the best medicine in the world," she continues. "If I became negative, I would have died by now. I'm a tough old broad," she adds with a twinkle in her eyes, even while she waited final results on her tumor last week.

Based on her medical history, she's not kidding about her attitude saving her — along with good doctors, she adds.

Jebry says that through it all, her husband, her fans and her friends, especially from her Monday night sessions at Mongello's restaurant in East Naples, have helped her maintain. She couldn't do it without their love and support. And her faith: "I pray, and I believe God watches out for me."

"No matter what the news is, face it," she says. "And continue to live the life you were given — good, bad or indifferent. And always, always keep a sense of humor."

Does she ever get down? "Of course I have my bad moments, and maybe I'll cry in the shower to release that. I'm human. Once I was depressed for almost a year, but I got over it and it made me even stronger."

Jebry says she'd even like to be a motivational speaker, "so I can help others."

The future, she says, includes hopes to continue being a motivation to others through her survived experiences, and through her music. "When I am on stage, I am giving back the love I get," she says.

Jebry has sung with such legendary musicians, such as Bobby McFerrin, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Drew Jr., Lionel Hampton, and Harry James. She has traveled around the world working clubs and jazz festivals and continues to sell out concerts in Naples, where she came and first played with Bobby Gideons.

In the meantime, Jebry captivates audiences regularly in Naples, singing with her band "Jebry and Friends" which includes husband Bobby Phillips on drums, Jean Packard on piano, and Carlo Fusaro on bass Recently, while performing at Mongello's in East Naples, she made the rounds to tables, sitting with her fans and friends.

, "We've known Jebry for 15 years," says one of them, Linda Beller of Farmington Hills, Mich. "She's something else, how she handles all of her challenges. And what a talent."

Dick Cashman and his wife, Joan, of Naples, have following the singer for 25 years."She is a courageous fighter," Dick Cashman. "She's to be praised for that, and she is incredibly talented." Joan Cashman called Jebry "a very strong woman. She's an inspiration to everybody."

As a postscript to this interview, Jebry received great news from her doctors. All of the tumor is gone, and for now, the singer can forego chemotherapy and radiation, and take a medication for five months to a year, while she stays under the watchful eyes of her doctors. She is cancer free.

And the show will go on.

© 2012 gonaples.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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