There are more cancer survivors alive today than at any other time in the history of the world. That is the positive message from Dr Paul Donnellan, a consultant medical oncologist at Galway University Hospitals.
He believes this good news is something to sing about so he decided to set up a global choir of cancer survivors to do just that.
Aptly named “Something to Sing About” there are six such choir networks in the west already in Castlebar, Westport, Ennis, Ballinasloe, Galway and Belmullet with others about to begin in Tuam, at the Galway Clinic,0 and in Sligo.
There has even been interest expressed from groups in the US and Australia. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, 14 breast cancer centres in the UK and a centre in Brisbane, Australia are keen to join.
“In a short number of months, ‘Something to Sing About’ has grown from an idea to a network of choirs in Ireland with interest from centres abroad,” says Dr Donnellan.
“Cancer survivors continue to need ongoing support, especially from fellow-survivors, and choir practice can be therapeutic. I hope that the choirs will coalesce and perform concerts on a regular basis, the proceeds of which will go towards patient support and cancer research.
“To set up an STSA choir all one needs is a group of cancer survivors, a musical director, a room in which to meet weekly and a computer connected to the internet so that the instruction regarding musical works in progress can be downloaded.”
The organisation’s first large scale concert will take place on Easter Sunday while the Galway University Hospitals choir will hold a carol service in December.
“I have been amazed at the interest and support we have garnered to date,” he says. “Not only do we have support groups joining us with choirs brimming full of enthusiastic singers, we have received very generous offers of support. In Galway for example, local man, cancer survivor and professional tenor Frank Naughton has pledged his support for the project.”
He describes a diagnosis of cancer as “shocking news”. “It is undoubtedly a life-altering event. STSA celebrates the fact that most patients diagnosed with common cancers such as breast and prostate cancer turn out to be cancer survivors: 80 per cent of prostate cancer patients will survive their disease; 90 per cent of breast cancer patients live longer than five years and many of these are cured.”
Anyone interested in joining STSA either as a singer-survivor or general volunteer is welcome. For further information on “Something to Sing About” log onto www.stsa.ie and follow the link to the Facebook page and Twitter account.