‘I just couldn’t cope with daily life’

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Belting out a jazz number on stage in her pitch-perfect voice, Trish Trigwell felt the energy coursing through her veins.

Yet just months before, powerful anti-cancer drugs had knocked that energy out of her, caused her to lose her hair and left her with crippling depression.

Trish Trigwell. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142716-5)

Trish Trigwell. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142716-5)

Trish, 52, (pictured with her husband Roy, mum Gaynor Cariss and son Gethin, 10), had been given the dreaded news that she had breast cancer following a routine mammogram.

She had to have a mastectomy followed by months of chemotherapy and, although her family provided her with strength, she found the treatment exhausting, was constantly drained and struggled to cope with the physical side-effects.

It was then she promised herself that if she went into remission she would perform in public – a lifelong passion that had only gone on behind closed doors, where no-one else could hear her sing.

Two years on and Trish has sung at several intimate gigs and recorded three tracks for an internet podcast, which includes a revealing interview about her journey to inspire others and raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

27/09/14  EB''Trish Trigwell from Lee on the Solent with (left to right), husband Roy, her mum Gaynor Cariss and her son Gethin (10). She has made a record and performed  live after beating breast cancer.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142716-8) PPP-140927-122821003

27/09/14 EB''Trish Trigwell from Lee on the Solent with (left to right), husband Roy, her mum Gaynor Cariss and her son Gethin (10). She has made a record and performed live after beating breast cancer.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142716-8) PPP-140927-122821003

Trish, of Eric Road, Stubbington, says: ‘I was fine when I was told I had breast cancer, I was prepared for that.

‘But when they said “mastectomy” it was the end of the world for me –and it was about image.

‘I thought I was never going to look nice again. When I got home I took all my clothes out of the wardrobe to throw away. I do like to try and make the best of myself but at that moment I felt I would never be glamorous again.’

The operation was in June 2012 and there followed six months of intensive chemotherapy which left Trish, a mental health nurse, agonisingly exhausted.

jpns trish trigwell singing from you tube for inset

jpns trish trigwell singing from you tube for inset

Her 10-year-old son Gethin would walk her up to bed and lay with her for hours while she slept.

‘Some people walk through chemo, but I found it awful,’ says Trish.

‘I used to come home and go straight to bed. I was really, really run down and unable to cope with daily life. My husband, Roy, and my son have been amazing.’

For a long time during chemotherapy Trish managed to keep her hair. But it was in a queue at a supermarket that it came out in clumps in her hands.

Trish says: ‘Depression is common amongst people with cancer. I was sleeping a lot.

‘I’m a mental health nurse so I managed to rationalise it but it was chronic until the chemo stopped. There was an underlying fear that I wasn’t going to be attractive any more.

‘During that time I was really building it up in my head. I saw bald people everywhere. It was almost as if the world was full of people with breast cancer.’

Following the mastectomy Trish had an implant in her right breast, but her body rejected it and she has been in and out of hospital having treatment for infections ever since.

She is determined to keep trying until the implant works.

It’s this determination which drove Trish to follow her dream to sing and inspire others through doing so.

She says: ‘I said to myself, “I’ve got to do something for me.”

‘For my 50th birthday I’d decided to have singing lessons with a fantastic teacher called Hayley Fisher in Stubbington.

‘After the treatment I decided to go back.

‘It was almost as if I wanted to finish off something I started before the cancer.

‘Everything was failing – my job, because I wasn’t able to cope physically or mentally with it. And singing took me away from the cancer.

‘Hayley didn’t just help me with my singing, she helped with my image too.

‘And we laughed together so much, and made lots of boob jokes!

‘I had always loved singing – but it was either in the shower or when I knew no-one else was listening.

‘When I was little I’d be behind the sofa using a hairbrush as a microphone.’

Trish’s first show was in front of family and friends at Arty’s wine bar, in Knowle Village, as it is close to Knowle Hospital where Trish trained.

She put months of physical pain and heartache behind her to shine on stage like a star.

Trish chose each song carefully, with every one meaning something to her.

‘Even if it’s just one line, they really enable me to release my emotions,’ she says.

‘I’d never done anything like that before.

‘It was amazing. I had so many friends there to support me. Nobody had really heard me sing before. I felt proud that I was giving something back.

‘When you perform it’s almost as if you’re giving part of yourself that you don’t necessarily show everyone else.’

And the crowd was fantastic.

‘There were nurses there I hadn’t seen for years,’ she says, beaming.

‘I was over the moon.

‘Afterwards, I thought I would never be able to do something like that again, but I’d got the bug and I wanted to share my experience.’

Trish’s cancer is in remission but she must always take the cancer prevention drug Tamoxifen, which has left her too unwell to continue her physically demanding job.

But she is stoical.

She says: ‘Cancer can drag you down. But if you fight it, you can win.’

Podcast

Trish Trigwell worked with WMD Studio in Fareham to make a podcast.

It features her talking about her experiences, plus performances of Cry Me A River, Adele’s Make You Feel My Love and Tori Amos’ Winter.

Trish is aiming to raise £200 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer by sharing her story.

Dominic Vermeulen-Smith, from WMD, says: ‘Working on this project with Trish has been amazing.

‘We weren’t sure what to expect from Trish or how she would be talking about her experience with cancer, but she came in fully prepared and full of confidence.

‘This comes through in her performance and interview.’

He adds: ‘We’re really proud to help raise money for Breakthrough by spreading Trish’s story and are so glad she asked us to help her with this.’

To donate go to justgiving.com/trish-at-wmd.