Cancer patients attest to the power of song
18th March 2014
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A Choir unique in the North West of England for being the only dedicated Choir for cancer patients and cancer survivors is proving to have more than just entertainment value for its members.

In a recent audit 80% of respondents reported that they felt they had benefited physically, mentally or emotionally from being in the Choir; with 80% citing mental or emotional benefits and 60% physical. Reported outcomes include improved breathing; increased energy levels; a more positive outlook and an increased sense of well-being.

In a separate piece of work Choir members were asked for their comments on what the Choir means to them: this is some of the feedback received -

Brian says: -"Singing is a way out of a problem, it softens my worries, it calms me down. When I'm singing I'm on a high, it's an escape from the real world. It helps control the pain I suffer; I really don't know what I would be like without it. The Choir members are like an extended family; we all get on well and support each other when times are bad."

Kath says: - "Bolton Cancer Voices has had a wonderful impact on my recovery - I am 4 years post-diagnosis and singing always lifts my spirits and makes me feel so much better."

Margaret says: - "I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2013 and my life changed dramatically. I went along to rehearsal and felt at home immediately; now I had a purpose in life and a roomful of new friends."

Pat says: - "Having the Choir has given me a totally new perspective to my life at a time of great personal challenges. Singing is a great way to lift spirits; I can walk in feeling tired, perhaps after having had treatment, but the atmosphere, the people and the singing just give me the biggest buzz possible."

Lynne says: - "The Choir has added 100% to my quality of life since cancer; music works wonders!"

Bolton Cancer Voices was established just 19 months ago by Karen Elliott, to be an inspirational Choir for people at any stage in their cancer journey whether newly diagnosed and in treatment, living with cancer as a life-limiting condition or a cancer survivor.

The Choir aims to provide a positive, motivational and diversionary environment in which members can have fun, enjoy the challenges and exhilaration of performing and have a focus aside from their illness. The Choir offers an informal forum to meet with others in a similar situation and benefit from mutual support and understanding.

To ensure the Choir is accessible to all no singing experience is necessary; you don't need to be able to read music; there are no auditions and no fees to worry about.

There are no less than 14 individual tumour types represented in the Choir and analysis shows that a third of members joined within 12 months of receiving their diagnosis; with the shortest period being 2 weeks post diagnosis and the longest 55 years!

Although members are welcome to take along a family member or friend to join with them if they wish the overwhelming majority have not taken up this option; meaning there are only a couple of members whose lives have not been personally touched by cancer.

The Choir accepts people from any geographical area as long as they can get to the centre of Bolton for rehearsals. Word of the fun and laughter to be had on a Monday night is spreading and as well as drawing members from across the wide conurbation of Bolton the Choir is now attracting people from surrounding areas. With a current membership of over 40, organizers are keen to see the Choir grow to become 70-strong during 2014.

Karen Elliott, Chair of Bolton Cancer Voices said: - "Its early days for us but the Choir has really taken off. The important thing is that everyone is having fun and enjoying the experience, however we were delighted to learn that members also feel they are seeing other benefits in terms of their health and well-being, which is fantastic.

When people receive a cancer diagnosis it can feel that life is spinning out of control and even after treatment is complete the consequences may continue to be felt.

Singing can be powerful, empowering and energizing and I believe it can play a role in helping boost confidence and self-esteem â both of which some find to be undermined when they receive a cancer diagnosis.

Once people join it doesn't seem to matter at what stage they are at in their cancer journey, the emphasis is on singing and enjoying themselves and this becomes the focus.

Whilst we were not established to fulfil the role of a support group, the Choir does have a strong supportive element running throughout and we have a half-hour before the start of rehearsal in which members can have a brew and a catch-up if they choose. People appreciate the opportunity to meet with others who have received a cancer diagnosis in an informal forum that affords an environment of acceptance and understanding and in which they feel thereâs no need for pretence nor necessity to avoid certain topics that might not always easily be discussed elsewhere.

Though cancer brings us together and some allowances are made in recognition of this it doesn't define who we are or what we do. Bolton Cancer Voices is like any Choir, with a full, varied and challenging programme of performances and activities, which already runs in to 2015!

We are fortunate to have a wonderful team in Clive Rushworth, Musical Director and Mark Foster, Accompanist; not only are they highly skilled but passionate about their roles and ensuring the Choir strives to achieve."

The Choir held their first major Concert - 'Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long' in December last year, when they were joined on stage by their guests Besses o' th' Barn Band, as well as other cancer patients and cancer survivors, professionals involved in the treatment, care or support of cancer patients and singers from local Choirs in the area; and keeping the whole evening running smoothly, Dr Kevin Jones, a Consultant Chest Physician and renowned comedian and after-dinner speaker.

Karen said:- "We considered it important to share feedback of our experience in the hope that it might inspire and encourage others to recognise the potential of Choirs such as ours."

For further information on joining Bolton Cancer Voices please contact

Karen Elliott on 01204 595562 / 07773 164235; email boltoncancervoices@yahoo.com

and to see more of what they've been up to go to Facebook: - https://www.facebook.com/BoltonCancerinfoport

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Gaynor R

Member since: 10th July 2012

Hi I am Gaynor Ramsden and am passionate about all things Bolton. I hope you enjoy reading my blogs and find them to be interesting and thought provoking. I would love you to add your personal comments...

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