Music was my perfect therapy

Emma KnightsThey say music is great for the soul, but for Norfolk solicitor and composer Lydia Dyer it is a vital lifeline which helped her through a gruelling battle with breast cancer. She tells emma knights about the concert she is putting on at Norwich Cathedral to help others with the disease.Emma Knights

It was composing music that helped Lydia Dyer through her battle with breast cancer, and now she hopes to use the melodies she has created to help ease the pain of other sufferers.

Later this month, she will put on a special concert at Norwich Cathedral, showcasing some of her work, but more importantly raising money for two charities close to her heart - Norwich Breast Cancer Resource Fund and Breast Cancer Care.

Mrs Dyer, a solicitor from Santon Downham, who will be performing under her maiden name of Lydia Kakabadse, has persuaded some high profile guests to support her, and is promising an inspiring night for those who attend.

'Composing is not only a passion for me, but also a lifeline. It kept me positive and focused right through my various cancer treatments. Now I really want to help so many of my fellow sufferers because it is such a terrible disease,' said Mrs Dyer, who has a degree in music from Royal Holloway, University of London, and plays the piano and double bass.

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It was in summer 2000, while living in Hertfordshire, that she first noticed a lump in her left breast. After the lump was removed tests revealed it was cancerous and she was told the terrible news that the cancer had spread through the rest of her breast.

'I was so shocked when I was told I had cancer. I just remember looking out of the window and it was pouring with rain and I thought this cannot be real,' she said.

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Just six months later, in February 2001, she found herself preparing for an operation to have her left breast removed.

'I have read a lot about how traumatising it is for women losing their breasts but all I thought about was that the operation was fundamental for me to live,' she said. 'If I did not have that breast removed I could have died in two years. I did have tears but that just lasted a couple of days and then I just got on with it.'

For five years Mrs Dyer appeared to have beaten the cancer, but a check-up in December 2007 revealed it had returned and spread to her lymph nodes.

The tumour was the size of a golf ball and attached to Mrs Dyer's arm muscle. Before surgeons could operate she had to endure a gruelling course of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour and, after the operation, she had another tough bout of treatment last spring, this time radiotherapy, to get rid of cancerous cells.

Along with the trauma of the treatment Mrs Dyer also suffered the upsetting side effect of losing her hair but, determined to stay strong, she sought comfort in composing and performing.

Among the work she completed during her treatment were the second and third movements to a string quartet called Arabian Rhapsody Suite, and an extension of her musical theatre piece The Mermaid, which is based on mythology and tells the story of a mermaid captured by pirates.

In March last year, during a break from her treatment, she put on a concert in London, wearing a wig to cover her loss of hair and long sleeves to cover unsightly veins on her arm caused by the chemotherapy. In June, she began planning the concert at Norwich Cathedral.

Mrs Dyer, who now has check-ups every six months and says everything is 'so far so good', said: 'It was the music that kept me going because I did not know what was happening, and whether I was going to survive, especially as it was second time around and more serious.

'I got great support from my family, friends and work but the music helped me on a more spiritual level and my mind focused on something else rather than the treatment.'

The concert, entitled An evening of musical theatre and chamber works, includes Mrs Dyer's own compositions and the last two movements of Schubert's Trout Quintet.

The event will also feature a number of performers including Kit Hesketh-Harvey, one half of the Kit and Widow musical comedy act, television and radio personality Diana Moran, who has also battled with breast cancer, and George Vass conducting the Ensemble.

t The concert at Norwich Cathedral starts at 7.30pm on Saturday, March 21. Ticket prices range from �10 to �18 (or from �9 to �16 for concessions). They can be bought from the Norwich Cathedral shop and also from Prelude Records, in St Giles Street, Norwich on 01603 628319.

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