Cancer affects everyone. That's the hard cold truth. Whether it be the people you know, the Bowie's of the world or the strangers we just walk by on the street, we are all susceptible to it, but we never really think it will ever happen to us or threaten the lives of our loved ones. Not now...not even soon. At least I never thought it would happen to me when it did.
The end of 2014 was, in a word, overwhelming. At 24 years old I had just signed with a major record label, come off a European tour supporting Hozier and sold out my first headline show in London. On top of all that I was booked to support Sam Smith on his first arena tour with Years & Years in the UK, and by that point I think he was nominated for 5 Grammys, so for someone who was relatively unknown it was set to be a real opportunity for me to gain exposure. Needless to say things were looking pretty sweet, career momentum was strong and I was really finding my way as an artist.
A few months before the Sam Smith tour I was set to fly to Germany to play some solo shows. The evening before my flight I was checking a few emails, doing the usual pre-flight rituals when I remembered that during the week I had noticed a bunch of male celebrities speak out about "grabbing their nuts" online and sharing the hashtag #feelingnuts. Deciding I should have a feel of the old ones and twos, I went to the shower, got warmed up, and low and behold something wasn't quite right. I had felt something on my right side that appeared to be a lump the size of a grain of rice. Stumbling out of the shower I looked at myself and told my reflection to man up and do something about it. Ironically, I used the expression "man up". I say 'ironically' as I think that we men naturally tend to postpone or ignore health issues, or at least find it harder to discuss what's going on with our bodies. I am just so glad I got it checked out.
Weeks had passed since then and I had flown home to Northern Ireland to recover from my operation and to start my 9 weeks of chemotherapy in Belfast City. I was relieved to finally know what I had in store. I knew I wouldn't be touring any time soon but I also knew that however tough the 9 weeks were going to be I'd be back doing what I knew best. That was my main motivation for getting better again. I had time to write and plan for my future, all the while learning a hell of a lot about myself. There were many struggles throughout the treatment but strangely enough also many highlights. I struggled with the fear of losing my identity the most. I knew my hair would eventually return but I would constantly think of how people would view me; both presently and in the future. Would I feel "normal" enough to except people to view me as "normal" again? With the support from my friends and family time flew by, and I realised that life does just move on. People get on with their lives. I have since learned not to over analyse things the way I use to.
I'm writing this today nine months into my remission and feeling more alive than ever. Taking some time out has its up's and downs, as anyone can imagine. In the music industry you obviously lose the momentum you worked so hard to create and it doesn't wait. Some people stay by your side and some people easily forget who you are, label bosses are living with constant fear of losing their jobs and artists can be a priority one week and 5 songs short from finishing an album the next. Unfortunately things in this industry can change in the blink of an eye, but as my hair thickened so did my skin.
I have a newfound appreciation for everything in life and for everyone that has recognised my efforts to get back to building my career as an artist. One person in particular, Lorraine Long who handled my PR at Charmfactory, was just so brilliant. As soon as Lorraine heard my news she began fundraising for Cancer Research by running 10K race a month for a whole year! I didn't expect anyone to be so motivated to help in the way that she did. Lorraine teamed up with Stand up to Cancer, and after months of hard work, organised a charity gig at Union Chapel in London (1st Feb). The sold out show will see Kodaline, James Morisson, Seafret and Dagny take the stage, and will no doubt be one to remember. It will be a big night for me for several reasons. I can finally say with a huge smile on my face I'll be back on the stage. Picking up (almost) where I left off.
Stand Up To Cancer at Union Chapel takes please February 1st with exclusive stripped-back performances from Kodaline, James Morrison, Seafret, Dagny, and Daniel James. The compere for the evening will be esteemed TV and radio presenter Edith Bowman.
Stand Up To Cancer raises vital funds to support scientists working in NHS hospitals, cancer centres, universities and institutes, speeding up research to get treatments and tests to UK patients who so desperately need them.