Monday, 5 December 2016

Thank you for the Music - Mike Booth

Mike Booth

Mike Booth, patient and recent recruit to the Rhythm of Life Choir

Like many others, I have faced the emotional tsunami of a cancer diagnosis and apprehensively entered the sliding doors of The Christie some three years ago.

I had given to cancer research charities for years, but never dreamed it might benefit me. No, that was for my parents, older relatives maybe. No, that was for my parents, older relatives maybe.  But after a protracted drugs trial and the excellent support of the team at The Christie I am pleased to say what felt like a death sentence has been commuted to a suspended sentence, still hanging over me, but not affecting my daily life in the same way.

I, like many, have been through blood tests, filled urine containers, had spinal samples, MRI scans, medications, acupuncture, mindfulness and much hanging around with some apprehension waiting for test results.  All highly efficient and helpful - no-one needs to tell us that The Christie is outstanding.

But it is only in the last couple of months that I have found the best therapy The Christie has to offer. 

When my friend Anna asked me along to the Rhythm of Life Choir I wasn’t sure what to expect, but within minutes I was hooked on this new ‘musotherapy’.  An hour and a half getting an infusion of adrenaline, endorphins and positive thinking without any needle in my hand, tubes, blood pressure checks or beeping machines.  And no side effects!  No headaches, nausea, trembling or sleeplessness. What could be better?

Carol, our choir leader, has such energy and enthusiasm that she has taken a group of (dare I say it) average singers and made us sound, well, quite good! She bounces us through a great repertoire of uplifting world music chants, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, religious songs and now even Carol’s Christmas – I mean Christmas carols - all in three part harmony.  

And harmony is what it is all about.  We are a disparate group of people whose lives have been affected by cancer, whether as patients, relatives or staff at The Christie.  We are all ages, from 13 to 85, from all backgrounds. The choir is mostly women, so male singers are particularly welcome but no singing experience (or particular talent!) is required.  We don’t use music, we just listen and repeat, following Carol’s fantastic conducting giving us the pitch to go for.  And our songs are all pretty short so can be learned quickly and polished over a period of weeks.

Rhythm of Life Choir
Right in the heart of The Christie community is the conservatory, full of light and almost in the garden.  And the beautiful Maggie’s Centre across the road is such a peaceful, bright and hopeful space, full of optimism. It feels closely linked to the sky and nature with the calmness of the surrounding gardens. We can almost feel the ‘rhythm of light’ as we let these lovely spaces flow into our hearts. Bring me little water, Christie, as we find renewed energy and life.

We are not, I hasten to add, a performance choir but we sing for the positive benefits to our minds, souls and bodies. We have now had quite a few bookings though, performing for patients at The Christie, appearing on TV for Gareth Malone’s The Choir – Gareth’s Best in Britain and our latest exciting appearance on BBC Breakfast TV with Naga Munchetty for Cancer Awareness Week recently. That was such an affirming and wonderful morning, full of life, hope, light and warmth and helped us bond as a choir as well as join with the community of support at Maggie’s.

We meet every second Monday evening at 7.30pm in the conservatory off the glass corridor at The Christie and at 1pm every other Monday in the Maggie’s Centre. It would be great to see more people and there is no long term commitment.  If you are interested in joining the choir please contact Ros on 0161 446 3996 or email Rosalyn.Fox@christie.nhs.uk.  It could lead to new harmony in your life!

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