Cancer and chemo fuel Dee's songs

Dee Handyside’s debut album was recorded while she had treatment for breast cancer, and will help raise funds for cancer research.
Dee Handyside’s debut album was recorded while she had treatment for breast cancer, and will help raise funds for cancer research. CONTRIBUTED

DEE Handyside was living her dream life as a ranger on Fraser Island, when a genetic time bomb went off: she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the same disease that killed her mother.

Just a week later, her sister also discovered she had the illness, and their cousin was also diagnosed soon afterwards.

But rather than suffering quietly, Dee chose to express herself in a "drug-fuelled music frenzy" in her spare bedroom, while undergoing chemotherapy.

The result is her debut album titled Genetic, which she describes as a "mini-musical", charting a cancer patient's journey from diagnosis onwards.

"I wanted to represent that journey and explain it to others, that while there are dark days, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom," she said.

The album was a mix of styles, from mo-town, jazz, country and R&B, and was written in bursts during her treatment, she said.

"Because chemotherapy affects the whole system, even your brain, you get these strange thought processes and sudden bursts of energy at 2am or 3am," Dee said.

While Dee was nervous about playing some of the songs to people, the feedback she has received has overwhelmed her.

"There's one song, I'm Scared, and people kept saying they had no idea I felt like that because I was so brave," she said.

Another song, Thank You Friends, was written for an inspirational group of women who formed an online breast cancer support forum.

They came together from all over Australia, and New Zealand to be in the music video.

"It was music, love, friends and family that didn't give up on me when I had given up on myself."

After recording the album with the help of a computer program, the finished product is now available on iTunes and is being distributed to ABC stores around the country with 10% of all sales going to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

To herald World Cancer Day on Saturday, Dee will launch the first single, Thank You Friends, and she plans to give 100% of iTunes proceeds for February to the foundation.

Topics:  cancer chemotherapy health

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