Many of our clients tell us that having cancer has made them feel particularly isolated. We know that feeling connected to others makes us feel better, and so run a number of support groups designed to bring together those going through similar experiences, whilst taking part in an activity they love.
From coffee mornings and book clubs to mindfulness and walking, people tell us that we find our support groups help them make new friends, talk openly and ease feelings of loneliness. What’s more, they can create a community. Nowhere is this sense of community stronger than at our three Sing for Life choirs in Cosham, Salisbury and Totton. Here, 160 people living with cancer regularly come together in a relaxed, fun and uplifting environment.
As well as helping its members to form important social bonds, research by the University of Oxford has found that singing in a choir can be beneficial to us physically. It can improve breathing, posture and muscle tension, as well as increasing our happiness and wellbeing.
“One of the best things about our choirs is that there’s no pressure to perform or even turn up every week,” says Sue Edmonds, the musical director of our Cosham Sing for Life choir. “We feel our choirs really help anyone living with cancer because both music and a sense of belonging can be immensely healing.”
Pete and his wife, Sue, both joined the Cosham Sing for Life choir in 2013. Both have had bowel cancer, major surgery and chemotherapy. He says he finds singing in a choir incredibly uplifting: “It gives me so much more than just singing. Because we have all lived, or are living, with cancer, we all support each other.
Some people like to talk about it and others come along for the feeling of togetherness – and both are ok. You might feel pretty rubbish when you arrive at practice, for example if you have mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapy, and you wonder if you can do it. But the coming together lifts you and you come away with a big smile that lasts for days.
We’ve had times where we’ve joined with other Sing for Life choirs and that’s just incredible. Thinking about all those voices coming together gives me goose bumps.”
Janet, who’s in the Totton choir, says it’s impossible for her to feel blue when she’s singing:
“I was persuaded by the team at the Waterside support centre to join Sing for Life after caring for my brother who died from cancer. At the time I thought, ‘there’s no way I can sing!’ But I’ve been coming for seven years now and never looked back. You meet so many different people, all with an incredible story to share, and we are all a great support to each other. The noise level is quite incredible. It’s impossible to feel down when you’re singing and it’s great fun. I absolutely love it!”
Debate continues about whether in this modern age we are feeling more or less connected, but one thing’s for sure – we feel much better when we come together and find things in common, and know that we belong. Pete says:
“With the support of our choir leader we’re getting better and better at singing and it’s such a privilege to be able to say to people who come along: I’ve been there, I know how you feel.”