Hello folks – happy Friday 🙂
Today’s story is from a truly inspiring woman who like Angela in the previous story belongs to the Sing for life Choir, a choir dedicated to improving the lives of those effected by cancer.
I am very privileged to have known Cathy’s late husband Hywel who was a lovely man a great speaker. Cathy’s journey largely surrounds her journey with her husbands illness and how singing helped her through……..
Here it is..
My name is Cathy Jones and I’m an alto in the fabulous Tenovus Sing for Life choir!
I joined the choir in January 2010 with my lovely husband Hywel. Tenovus the Welsh cancer Charity started the choir with the help of Sing & Inspire to research the health and wellbeing benefits of singing in a choir for people who had been affected by cancer. When we joined the choir my husband had been through gruelling treatment for head and neck cancer and had been clear of cancer for almost 3 years. 3 months after we joined the choir we had the devastating news that his cancer had returned and that this time it was incurable. Over the next 2 years he went through more gruelling treatment but throughout that horrendously difficult period we both continued to sing and go to our weekly choir practices. Singing was something that, no matter what terrible news we received, we wanted to carry on doing as often as we could. Singing in this special choir made us both feel supported, understood and uplifted. Sadly Hywel died last July. The choir continues to be my support group and the amazing people who are part of that choir are good friends who have helped me to carry on since losing Hywel.
We went to our first choir practice in early January 2010 when it was freezing cold and snow was on the ground. It was great fun from the start, it took a week or two’s practicing to relax a little and start chatting to others. Hywel was in a social environment where he didn’t feel excluded and I was meeting new people who understood what it was like for me too. We were given CDs to sing along to and Andrea and George from Sing & Inspire gave Hywel some vocal exercises to help him with his breathing and to strengthen his voice as he had a paralysed vocal chord following surgery for his cancer. I would drive Hywel mad with my constant practicing in the kitchen!
The choir only met a couple of times before we performed at Tenovus’ biggest fundraising event of the year – their annual St David’s day dinner. We had an amazing evening. The choir were on a real high after singing well and emotions were running very high for a couple of days after the event.
The choir went from strength to strength after the big performance. I have made some really good friends there, and when Hywel was told his cancer was back we carried on going every week, missing only a few practices when Hywel was having treatment. We have performed with the Pendyrus Male voice choir, the Treorchy Male Voice choir, and have been the support act for Only Men Aloud on a couple of occasions. The most memorable performance for me was in Liverpool in Nov 2010, we opened the National Cancer Research Institute’s conference. Hywel pushed himself to come to choir practice when he was having chemo because I was auditioning to sing a small solo part in Liverpool and he thought I might chicken out of auditioning if he didn’t come along to the rehearsals! I got the part and sang a small alto part at the start of our version of “You’ll never Walk Alone”. I think knowing I was going to sing the solo helped us both have the trip to Liverpool as something to focus on beyond the end of Hywel’s chemotherapy. Hywel said he felt very proud when I sang. I felt I was singing the words for him and it was a great feeling to be performing at such an appropriate event and singing a solo has helped me with my confidence which was severely knocked after Hywel’s cancer diagnosis. We had a standing ovation at the end of our performance. Hywel found the trip exhausting but also exhilarating.
Hywel missed quite a few rehearsals during the summer and autumn of 2011 as his voice had grown very weak again and the pain from his treatment scarring was very debilitating. I had carried on going on my own, I still enjoyed going but really missed him being there. When Hywel’s consultant told Hywel that he thought he could improve his voice with surgery, we jumped at the chance. Two weeks after the operation Hywel was back at choir and delighted that he could sing again.
Sadly Hywel’s new voice was shortlived as his cancer could no longer be contained and he became too weak to go to choir. I went as often as I could for an energy boost and respite from caring for Hywel. He managed to go to one rehersal 6 weeks before he died so that he could listen to us singing one last time.
‘Lean on me’ was Hywel’s favourite choir song, it was borrowed from Bill Withers, sprinkled with a little bit of Glee, and arranged especially for us by Sing and Inspire, in fact the Sing for Life choir sang the song beautifully at his funeral as a tribute to him and as a way of supporting and comforting each other.
I only missed two choir practices after Hywel’s funeral, I didn’t want to stay away. It is a year since Hywel died and singing helps me to feel like me again: it gives me strength; it helps me to forget sadness and remember happiness when I need to; it helps me to get my emotions out on the days when they are locked inside me and I am numb and lost. Singing is definitely my therapy and my passion and something I wouldn’t want to be without.
Here’s a picture of Cathy singing at her 50th Birthday…….
Sometimes singing gives us a voice we never thought we’d have, and sometimes singing with others holds us up and helps us be who we need to be. Yet another truly inspiring story which confirms in my heart that so much of what we go through in life can be helped, healed and improved by acknowledging our voice. Thanks so much Cathy for bravely sharing your story. I’m honoured to have played a part in you feeling at home with the sing for life choir.