Cancer survivor turning the tide on negativity
An east Cavan woman, who feared she might never speak again let alone sing, was part of the ‘Sea of Change’ choir who gave a special virtual performance earlier this month on World Cancer Day.
Anne Taylor from the townland of Beherna in Munterconnaught is one of 50 cancer survivors who make up the choir. They were chosen from 150 countries to open the EU Cancer Plan in Brussels on February 4. The performance went out to a television audience across Europe of 700 million people.
Anne told the Celt that she is honoured to be representing Cavan and Ireland in the choir whose members range in age from 30 to 75 years.
“There are 50 of us in the choir called ‘Sea of Change’ and all of us either had cancer or have been affected by cancer in some way. Last year, within four months, we lost two girls from the choir - one from Tipperary and the other lady from Dublin. Each person has a story to tell.
“We made a video in honour of those two ladies, Annette and Eileen and their families,” explained Anne.
“We are a very happy group and we celebrate life to the full and we want to give out that message – that, regardless of your situation, whether you are having emotional issues or psychiatric issues, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things will get better,” she explained of the ethos of the choir.
Anne is married to Patrick and they have two children. “We have a daughter who is 33 years of age and we fostered her when she was seven and we adopted a little boy from Vietnam when he was seven months old and he is 13 now,” said big-hearted Anne.
Her happy life was interrupted four years ago by a cancer diagnosis. “I had a lump in my throat and I had not been feeling well and was tired. I did not take much notice of it till I observed that my throat was very swollen. My GP sent me for a scan and I was found to have a large tumour on my throat. I then had the tumour removed in the Mater Hospital,” she recalls of her health scare.
“I was told the morning I was about to have it removed that it was on my larynx and I might not be able to speak again. But, after the surgery that evening, I was able to say words when the doctors were doing their rounds. They said ‘we can’t believe that you can speak’,” remembers Anne.
Two years later Anne found herself auditioning in the Helix in Dublin as part of the ‘Sea of Change’ for Britain’s Got Talent. Based in Lucan, the choir’s musical director is Ian Brabazon.“Getting the golden buzzer was a very poignant moment for me... it was phenomenal. We really became a family coming through that experience,” recalls Anne of the moment they were put straight through to the live semi finals of the show.
She feels she has a lot to be thankful for: “I was lucky it [the cancer] was caught early. I had a great GP and I did not require any further treatment. That was four years ago in January and the community and people of Munterconnaught have been amazing and they support you in anything you do.”
‘Strip n Dip’
Anne, who works in the Gormley’s Total Health Pharmacy in Ballyjamesduff, said her journey to Britain’s Got Talent started off with a ‘Strip N Dip’ group challenge.
“We went into the water as strangers and came out as friends and it changed our lives,” enthused Anne, explaining how the name for the choir evolved from that special, liberating fundraiser.
Deirdre Featherstone spearheaded the annual ‘Strip n Dip’ event, which to date has raised nearly €1 million for Aoibheann’s Pink Tie national children’s cancer charity.
“Out of that money, they were able to purchase their first Respite House in St John’s Ward in Crumlin Hospital. I think we are around €100,000 short of the million euro and we hope to raise that this year,” said Anne.
The group holds the Guinness world record for the largest amount of people in the world congregating for a skinny dip.
Since winning hearts on Britain’s Got Talent, the choir has appeared on the Late Late Show and sang in the National Concert Hall with Jack L.
“Out of that profile on television, we were invited to Brussels last year and we got a standing ovation in the European Parliament. It was a fantastic day and afforded us great exposure,” continued Anne.
The ‘Sea of Change’ choir is all about positivity, hence their song choices are upbeat.
“We have all been practising on zoom and we have a number of exciting projects coming up, which we can’t reveal at this time,” teased Anne.
The first song the choir sang was ‘This is Me’ from the Greatest Showman and it remains Anne’s favourite song as it marked “the start of a very special journey”.