Sheryl Crow: Cancer Made Me Selfish – In A Good Way

10/13/2008 at 04:20 PM EDT

Sheryl Crow: Cancer Made Me Selfish – In A Good Way
Sheryl Crow
Jim McIsaac/Getty

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow says breast cancer taught her a valuable lesson.

"Breast cancer helped me put myself first in life," Crow told PEOPLE Friday before her concert for Yoplait's Save Lids to Save Lives program. "Once I stepped out of radiation, I had to remember that the only person who could take care of me was me. I'd better do that before I take care of everybody else, instead of everybody else first."

The singer, who is now cancer-free following a lumpectomy and radiation treatments two-and-a-half years ago, says she has reached out to Christina Applegate, who underwent a double mastectomy after her own breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

"I knew Christina, [so] it was less about the celebrity aspect of it and more about the experience of already having it," says Crow. "It's daunting to have to go through getting the prognosis. It's just nice to have a sounding board."

Crow, who became a mom to 17-month-old son Wyatt and moved to a Tennessee farm after beating breast cancer, says she hopes women will be diligent about getting mammograms, learning their family history of cancer and doing self-exams.

"I feel more connected to my life now that I've had – and beat – breast cancer," she says.

Reporting by SCOTT HUVER

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