Guest Post: Sing To Beat Breast Cancer


Today’s guest post is by Julia Barnickle, pictured here with the Sing To Beat Breast Cancer choir.

Each year since I was diagnosed, I have wanted to do something to raise funds for breast cancer research and support – but this is the first time I’ve found a fundraising activity that doesn’t involve running, cycling or climbing mountains…

When I was first diagnosed, in 2008, my partner Paul and I were in a local pub band together. We did a range of rock, soul and R’n’B covers, and I sang backing vocals. At the time, Paul thought it might be too much for me, with weekly rehearsals and occasional gigs – but when he suggested folding the band, I said: “don’t you dare!”

Being in the band meant that I had something positive to focus on, to take my mind off treatments and having cancer – it gave me something to look forward to. Unfortunately, the band broke up about three years ago – but by then, it had served its purpose. Now, five years and two recurrences later, music is back in my life.

It all started with a phone call from my friend Deborah, who had breast cancer in 2011. Her daughter, Camilla Kerslake, put her classical singing career on hold when Deborah was diagnosed, and has since performed at a number of events to raise funds for breast cancer charities.

Deborah said that Camilla was recording a single with the classical boy band, Blake, on behalf of the Breast Cancer Campaign charity – and she wanted a choir, made up of women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, to sing on the recording.

This was something they had both dreamed of, while Deborah was ill and didn’t have the energy to do much except sing with Camilla at home.

Deborah had seen me in the pub band, so she knew that I could sing and invited me to join the choir. I accepted without hesitation. Then she said: “do you know anyone else who’s had breast cancer and can sing, and will be able to come to auditions next week in London?”

Fortunately, I’ve stayed friends with Gosia Gorna, one of the life coaches at the Breast Cancer Haven in Fulham – so I phoned her and asked if she would e-mail everyone she knows and ask them to contact me if they’d like to audition for the choir.

Over the next few days, my inbox overflowed with e-mails from ladies who sing, and who are at various stages in the cancer journey. A week later, eleven of us met up at Clapham Junction station, so that we could make our way together for the auditions at Price Studios – where a further seven intrepid ladies awaited us. The Sing To Beat Breast Cancer choir was born!

That was in August. The song Camilla had chosen for us to sing was “You Raise Me Up”. We spent two days auditioning, rehearsing and recording our parts, while being filmed for an accompanying video.

The single was released on 13th October – and, thanks to the generosity of everyone involved in producing the single giving their time for free, all the profits from the sales of downloads will go direct to the Breast Cancer Campaign charity, who fund breast cancer research in the UK and Ireland.

In between the recording and release of the single, some members of the choir have done a few live performances – first of all at the London Hippodrome, with Camilla and Blake; then with Camilla for the Macmillan coffee morning at the Grosvenor House Apartments on Park Lane (very swanky!) and the Inspiration Awards for Women at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea, where we were photographed by the paparazzi on the red/pink carpet!

The night before the official launch of the single, we headlined with Camilla and Blake at the Pink Ribbon Ball, at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane – and three days later, we appeared on a daytime show on UK television.

Our final live performance in October will be at St James’ Theatre, Victoria, London, on 27th October. After that – who knows?!

I can hardly express how exciting this has all been. And I know it might sound like I’m just doing it for purely selfish reasons – just because I love singing. And that’s probably true, at least in part. But if I hadn’t had breast cancer, then I wouldn’t be in the choir – and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to use something I’m good at, and enjoy, to raise funds.

And I know that it’s “pink”, and that the pink movement has a tendency to gloss over the problems – that not enough is done about preventing breast cancer or understanding and treating metastatic breast cancer.

And I’m glad that we changed our name from the “Breast Cancer Survivors Choir” to the “Sing To Beat Breast Cancer” choir. And I know there are so many other issues to do with breast cancer that we have no hope of addressing by simply singing in a choir.

But we’re doing what we can. Between us, the choir members represent pretty much all ages and stages of breast cancer, so we’re singing to show solidarity with everyone who has ever been diagnosed.

Singing helped me through my first diagnosis – and now, five years later, being in the Sing To Beat Breast Cancer choir has given me something to look forward to while I’ve been undergoing radiotherapy. Whether or not the choir continues after Pinktober, I’m glad that I have had the privilege of being a part of it – because I believe it’s worthwhile, and because I love singing.

And because, regardless of whatever other treatments are on offer, doing what you love has got to be the best medicine for whatever ails you.

Watch The Video

You can find out more about the Sing To Beat Breast Cancer choir, watch the video and buy the single at:

jbcreative_twitterMore About Julia 

Julia describes herself as a multiple specialist, a Quiet Entrepreneur, and a proponent of Taking Life As It Comes. She helps Introverts, Scanners and recovering creatives to connect with their creative passion, get clarity about their values and find flow. She also promotes Introvert-friendly ways to build an on-line Lifestyle business. To read more of Julia’s work, visit