Kevin Sharp, the "Nobody Knows" singer who refused to let a cancer diagnosis keep him from inspiring hundreds via the Make-A-Wish Foundation, died Saturday. His family said the hitmaker and motivational speaker succumbed to complications from past stomach surgeries and digestive issues. He was 43.
"He had a strong heart, that's what kept him alive," said his sister Mary Huston, who had been caring for him in the final days prior to his death. "[But] I'm so happy for him, that there's no more suffering."
Sharp is one of the rare people who have worked with Make-A-Wish as both a recipient of the foundation's goodwill and a participant. Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer as a teen, he asked Make-A-Wish to introduce him to famed producer-performer David Foster.
When Sharp's cancer unexpectedly went into remission in 1991, Foster helped Sharp launch a country music career, which spawned several albums and the chart-topping 1996 hit "Nobody Knows."
Sharp, ever grateful to Make-A-Wish, became a national spokesperson for the foundation, eventually earning the distinction of "Wishgranter of the Year." He also went on the motivational circuit and published the a book about his life, "Tragedy's Gift: Surviving Cancer — The Kevin Sharp Story," in 2004.
In 2008, Sharp began suffering severe stomach issues and ulcers, resulting in having more than half his stomach removed. As he told Country Weekly in 2009, he was unable to eat for six months: "I was down to 126 pounds. ... I was throwing up everything I ate." He later suffered a bone infection in his leg, necessitating numerous surgeries and eventual replacement of his femur, hip, and knee.
Despite ongoing health battles, Sharp continued his speaking engagements and worked on music. Although his final full-length album came out in 2005, Sharp retained a contract with independent label Cupit Music and never lost hope that he'd be able to record more.
"[Music] really is my driving force," he told Country Weekly. "It communicates to me in ways that are spiritually, emotionally, and mentally healing."
Sharp is survived by five brothers, two sisters, and his mother. Funeral arrangements are pending.
His family suggests that anyone who would like to make a donation in his memory should contact their local Make-A-Wish branch for options.