Sing for the Cure

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I had a great reunion last week with the other breast cancer survivors here in Dallas who narrated Sing for the Cure in 2002. The piece comprises 10 movements, addressing every aspect of the breast cancer experience -- from the nurse who is overwhelmed by the numbers of new diagnoses to the woman missing the mother who died of breast cancer and the thrill of deciding to live out loud. The music is amazing and swings the audience from the joy of life to the pain of loss and back again. Each movement begins with a narrator who speaks to an issue, whether it be finding the humor in having the dog run off with your prosthesis or the pain of looking in the mirror and seeing not only your face but the face of your sister, who has died of breast cancer. Commissioned Nancy Brinker for Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1998, Sing for the Cure premiered in Dallas in 2000 with Dr. Maya Angelou doing all the narration. During the writing of Sing for the Cure, the lyricist interviewed a number of women to understand what we face when confronted with breast cancer. I was one of the lucky ones she talked to. She wanted to get the perspective of a mother fearing she will not be able to raise her child. When the lyricist called me I had just returned from a speaking engagement where I talked about our worst fear when we are diagnosed, and how it is the vision we see when we hear the words you have cancer. A number of people came up to me after the talk to tell me what they saw, and it ranged from amother of a recent college graduate saying they had put off a cruise until their son graduated from college (when they would be $40,000 richer) and now that seemed in doubt. Another woman said it was fear of not knowing who would care for her animals that kept her awake. Then a petite woman walked up and said simply, "He doesn't know how to curl their hair." I relayed this story to the lyricist and then forgot about it. I wasn't able to attend the premiere, so I was thrilled when I got a call a few years later from director Dr. Tim Seelig who asked if I would come talk to him about narrating a piece for another performance of Sing that would use breast cancer survivors for each of the narrations. When I read the section he wanted me to narrate, I realized that the lyricist had incorporated my story into the narration and song that followed it. So it was with great pleasure that Kirtley, then 15, and I did the narration for the Sing for the Cure in Dallas and then at Carnegie Hall in New York City that summer. All the narrators became very close and we had a blast doing the shows. Then life went on. Since the world premier 10 years ago, Sing for the Cure has been performed hundreds of times in the United States, Canada, and the UK, with narration by a wide variety of celebrities, advocates and survivors. I was excited to hear that there would be a 10th anniversary performance of Sing for the Cure with narrator Rene Syler. Tim is back at the helm of an amazing choral group called Resounding Harmony. A number of tickets for survivors had been underwritten and the e-mails started flying between the narrators about getting together again for dinner that night. Then we found out our services as narrators were needed again for a dress rehearsal of Sing for the survivors who could not be accommodated for the performance on Wednesday, May 12. All but one of us could make it.Some of us attended a rehearsal at a local church, and I was totally unprepared for the feelings that washed over me. As the choir began the movements, I was thinking about all the women I know who have been diagnosed in the 10 years since the premier. One friend in particular, Suzan Bruce, has a 7-year-old who reminds me a lot of Kirtley at that age. I am taking her to the performance on May 12. When I began the narration, a wave of emotion hit me as I ended the reading by asking who would curl my daughter's hair if I am a gone and begging God to let me be here to see her grow. I have been blessed with the years that have seen my daughter, Kirtley, grow to be a young woman who is now almost 25 years old. I always know how many years I have survived by subtracting 1 from her age. She was 13 months old when I got the news. The dress rehearsal was moving and wonderful. Around 100 women and men attended. The survivors were easy to spot; they started crying fairly soon. But there was a moment of hope for the narrators when we all realized that we were all still here; some a little worse for wear and second diagnoses, but still here.