DAWN'S INSPIRATIONAL STORY
Dawn's story: Life after cancer.
Coming back from the edge of life's precipice gives me the courage to attempt anything.
Its not fear that drives me on but the knowledge that the next medical test could be "The bad news"
I grew up in inner Birmingham but I never felt like a city girl & Wales has always drawn me with the huge open spaces & the fierce patriatism of the people.
With a strong singing voice but being natually shy I met my future husband, Paul, at an audition for his band. Fate then stepped in, he had a business opportunity overseas and we spent the next 6 years in South Africa. During this period we built up our music act in bars & open air gigs.
It could get a bit wild; A group of bikers, slight worst for wear decided to drink their lager our of my ankle strap shoes!
In our garden I once came very close to being raped by a man with a knife. I struggled and managed to grab the knife by the blade & was able to fight him off. I still have the scars where my hand was stitched up as a reminder. Two ladies took me in their car to the local doctor, I recall getting blood all over their car seat. Some months later I recognised my attacker from an identikit in the paper after he had attached another women. I don't know if he was ever caught.
Returning to England we then spent many years performing in the Working Mens Clubs, Miners Institues & Theaters of The Midlands, East England & South Wales. Appearing on the bill with The Searchers, Roger De Courcey (remember Nookie Bear), Stan Boardman & Charlie Williams. For each gig our Mom sent us off with a big pile of sandwiches to eat in the van. She was our biggest supporter.
But these venues were dying; huge stages with dressing rooms for a small orchestra they were built for the days of a full variety show but were sadly finishing with a poor solo performer having the sing for 2 or 3 hours to taped backing music being watched & generally ignored by an audience queuing up to buy their bingo tickets.
It was genuine hard work and not fun dragging a PA system down the frozen metal steps of Swansea Dockers Club fire escape after midnight in an evening gown! Still, we won some awards, West Midlands vocaliste of the year and best duo. Together with nice things said in "The Stage" about my 1940's Show. So there were some great nights expecially when the comedy sparkled.
But my voice was more Joan Baez and the Doncaster drinkers wanted to hear Lulu!
Then a change, a request to entertain someones eldely mother in a care home. That event was a reverlation for me. This is what I was born to do. I immediately gained an empathy with these frail old people. These were not senior citizens dozing in an armchair " waiting for God". They were their Mothers, Fathers, Great Grandparents, somebodies sweetheart. They all had a tale to tell and many had lived amazing lives.
It was not always easy to communicate when their memory has gone & speech difficult but there were many very special days when " you got through". A gravely ill person who has lost the power of speech suddenly, though the sound of my voice, began to sing along to a long forgotten song. The care staff would stop work & come & listen. Something very special had happened. On one occasion an elderly couple in a nursing home stood up together & danced. The atmosphere & the sounds had stirred some distant memory & their bodies had responded.
I will never forget their daughter weeping on seeing them once again gracing the dancefloor.
I became popular, receiving regular reviews on local radio & was sometimes giving 9 shows a week over the Xmas period.
The most important thing for me was " That response & reaction from very ill people was much more rewarding than a cheer & encore from a club crowd" It gave me a reason to be! Amazing, I could also earn, at that time, as much as I could in the clubs & be home in time to cook the tea!
One strange story occured when I played an open air fete at a Residental Home in Staffordshire. We had a lovely afternoon and a good sing-song. But a neighbour complained about the noise and this was picked up by the National Newspapers & the Jonathan Ross radio show. Huge support & flowers were sent to the home by many well wishers who were outraged that these elderly citizens couldn't have a good time & make their voices heard,
Kylie Minogue & I were both singers. We had one other thing in common:
We were both diagnosed with breast cancer in the same week in 2005. I was 45.
In my case complications in surgery meant I had to have a live saving operation due to blood clots on the lungs,
Many procedures later we moved to Suffolk and there I had a body rebuild under the wonderful skilled hands of Plastic Reconstruction Dept, Many more operations followed.
I went back to work which was great for a time but the financial pressures on the care & nursing homes became greater & greater. Responsibility was handed over to the accountants of private companies and many of the skilled, loving care staff were forced out rather than accepting menial positions.
The money made available to entertain the residents dwindled. The same number of Pound notes as nearly 20 years earlier but only once a month rather that twice a week.
All my reconstruction surgery was carried out at Norwich University hospital by the wonderful Miss Rozina Ali. A few years after my final surgery I was invited, along with 20 other ladies to have a photographic portrait taken. " Topless" This exhibition showed topless Ladies all in different stages of reconstruction it went on show all over the UK including the House of Commons, and then on to New York. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-34044991
Then another twist: We had been receiving positive reaction to original songs & videos that we posted on-line.
With a lot of support from fans overseas, especially the USA, we wrote & recorded a concept album " Ancient Tales" I shared the lead vocals with our son, Pete, and he & my husband, Paul, wrote the words & music.
It was picked up by famous Producer, Mark Berry, based in Toronto and all the songs from the album are covered by Worldwide Publishing Contract with Mark Berry's Attack Media Group.
My map of the mythical land of Haddon where the album 'Ancient Tales' was set
We made a decision to leave Suffolk and move to rural Wales. It was a place that we retained such fond memories of, day trips to Barmouth, holidays on Shell Island, Tywyn, Harlech, Abersock. But especailly for us was camping & swimming with a seal in Cwmdwi, crabbing in Aberaeron and fish & chips in Newquay.
So we packed our bags & made the latest move. we've always bought & sold houses for a profit but this move was made with our hearts & not our heads:
We moved into Tynant Uchaf on a very wet & windy day in December 2015. After many weeks of heavy rain the track to the house was almost impassable by car & we spent the first night watching the rain running down the inside of the bedroom wall and seeing the last of the water drain out of the radiators as they gave up any attempt to hold any pressure.
The oil tank had been left almost empty, the telephone didnt work and there was no mobile reception.
oh, by the way there was no roof on the back room and a gale blew though every door, window and cracks in the walls.
Both our children, Penny & Pete, live in Western Australia with our Grandchilden, Dexter, Louie & Grace. Pictured with their Dad, Dale. Sadly our first granddaughter, Frankie Dawn, died weeks after birth, she will always be in our hearts. My Mom lives with us now in the Annex we built for her at the back of the house, our first renovation after we moved in.
Everyday is a challenge,
we are really excited by this new artistic Project.
Why not come & meet us.