Why Jenny joined Sing with Us Sutton

This post includes a story from one of our Sing with Us Sutton choristers, Jenny.

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I am fortunate that I have not had a cancer diagnosis. I cannot muster the emotions or trauma that comes with being presented with such a diagnosis. I have spent the last four and a half years trying my best to empathise with individuals and families affected by cancer to really provide value in assisting patients and their families in the best way for them.

It can be very tempting as an adviser to treat different cancer types and people as a collective group and use trends to best advise the 'average' type of person before you and the type of cancer they have. This does the individual a disservice as the advice or next steps given are not as close to the value of the individual as possible.  

Looking at our Sing with Us service it can be tempting to categorize new members by their type of cancer and what their motivations are for joining the choir. To this end I asked our choristers for their motivations to joining the choir and I'm hoping to gather more of these stories as the weeks progress.

In the meantime, I'll pass you over to Jenny from our Sing with Us Sutton Choir led by Vicki Hodges.

My Story by Jenny 

I have always enjoyed singing and I have been in various choirs since I was a child. Before I was ill, I was a member of Imperial College Choir because I worked at Imperial College, as a scientist in the Cancer department (at Hammersmith Hospital).  This was a large choir composed of students and staff and we sang to a high standard, often major choral works.

I was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2016, and spent a total of 6 weeks in hospital followed by chemotherapy.  I’m better than I was but I will never be cancer free.

I wasn’t well enough to work or continue with my life in London.  I left the choir, left my job, moved to Carshalton so that I could have treatment at the Royal Marsden.  I am now based here and retired.

Singing with the Tenovus Sing with Us Choir gives me the opportunity to return to the choral experience. It has social benefits and everyone is affected by cancer, so we are all in a similar place, it’s a friendly environment. 

I enjoy singing, although I’m more used to having a score in front of me.  Learning songs in a new way is a challenge but I always pick up tunes easily. When I am feeling well enough I am happy to go to the rehearsals, but so far I haven’t made it to any performances. I’m not always well enough to go and I rely on public transport and also have been been able to take on other activities too. 

As a scientist who worked on cancer before I became ill, I am glad to be part of a research project, especially since it has links with the Marsden, Institute of Cancer Research  (ICR) and Imperial College.  My father worked in the ICR for his entire career and was a prominent scientist in the field of Radiotherapy Research, so our family has a track record with cancer.

Anything that I can do to aid the cause of improving lives of those affected with cancer is welcome, partly because I need to have goals and feel motivated. I am living with a disease which is not going to go away and I am adjusting to that.

The short story above highlights perfectly the different motivations to wanting to join a choir and take part in research. Here at Tenovus Cancer Care we will continue to provide innovative ways for people to be supported, and, be as close to who they want to be as possible.

Jenny may have cancer, but more importantly she still has goals and motivations.

Tom Dyer

Community Development Officer