Martina McBride is riding high at No. 1 on the Music Row’s Country Breakout Singles chart this week with her power-ballad anthem about dealing with breast cancer, ‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It.’ The song made its impact to country radio late last summer and took 31 weeks to top the industry chart.

The tune was penned by ASCAP’s 2011 Songwriter of the Year, Peach Picker Ben Hayslip, along with Jimmy Yeary and his wife Sonya Isaacs, for whom the song hit especially close to home.

“Sonya came in one day with the idea,” Hayslip tells Taste of Country. “Being a cancer song and me being a guy who writes three-minute uptempo songs that feel good on the radio, I can’t say that I was all that excited about it. She told me about her mother having breast cancer. So I just asked Sonya if there was any way we could call her mother and put her on speaker phone so she can tell her story. I had never done anything like that before. We did, and she told us her story from diagnosis to treatment. I went from not wanting to write that song to just wanting to dive in. That was the song God intended for us to write that day. All the response I’ve gotten and they’ve gotten as songwriters has been huge … from survivors to family members who have lost loved ones to cancer. It’s been a very special song in my career.”

Scoring No. 1 songs is nothing new for Hayslip, who has done so on Billboard/Mediabase charts with Blake Shelton‘s ‘Honey Bee’ and ‘All About Tonight,’ Luke Bryan‘s ‘I Don’t Want This Night to End,’ Joe Nichols‘ ‘Gimme That Girl,’ and Josh Turner‘s ‘All Over Me.’ He has spent time at the top of Music Row’s charts also, penning Brooks and Dunn’s ‘Put a Girl in It’ and Shelton’s ‘I’ll Just Hold On.’

“I’ve said it a thousand times … we like writing fun and uptempo songs, but the fact that I can sit down and write a song like ‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It’ about that serious of a subject and have it go No. 1 is huge,” notes Hayslip. “It’s huge, not just for myself and the confidence it gives me as a songwriter, but also to see how many lives it touches. The further it went up the chart, the more people were hearing that song. I know that millions and millions of people have heard that song, and I hear all the time through emails and Facebook or whatever, just how many lives it’s touched. That is very special as a songwriter. You do this because you love to make money and you love the songwriting, but you also change lives and make people feel something when they hear your music.”

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