When you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, your overall health and well being becomes a top priority, particularly while you are undergoing treatment. Here to share the health journey that she embarked on and how it has made all the difference is…..Summer Watson, classical crossover artist.
It’s very rare to encounter a singing voice so magical that everyone who hears it is left open-mouthed in admiration and inspired by the beauty and possibility of life. But classical crossover singer Summer Watson is such a talent. She has demonstrated that on the finest stages, whether in her native England at the Royal Albert Hall, O2 Arena and Buckingham Palace, or internationally on tour in Europe and performing for a 1.3 billion TV audience in China hosted by Nick Canon. She has performed with artists such as David Foster, Chris Botti and Michael Bolton and Lady Gaga’s performance artist; Millie Brown, Met Opera house tenor, Marcello Alvarez, and the Celtic Tenors, recorded at Abbey Road with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and enjoyed Number 1 chart success US iTunes as the first-ever classical artist to sign £1million recording contract with Sony after graduating with distinction from London’s famed Royal College of Music.
Philanthropy is a major part of Summer’s life she has raised huge funds for worthy charities around the world, 2016 she was appointed Ambassador for Amnesty International where she sang and was the guest speaker at the Ginetta Sagan Awards in NYC. Summer continues to wow the world with her incredible voice. Having fought and beaten breast cancer recently and come back to performing better than ever, she is also every bit as inspiring as she is entertaining. Summer is now really enjoying sharing this recent experience of healing through laughter and music with the world and paying it forward. Recently she was featured in the acclaimed TJ Scott’s coffee table book, “In the tub,” where the profits go to Breast Cancer Research.
Support for Real Pink comes from Genentech, a member of the Roche group who pursues groundbreaking science to discover and develop medicines for people with breast cancer. Learn more at gene.com that’s G E N E .com.
From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
During this time of social isolation, clearing ourselves of mental toxicities for better mental attitude, health and wellness is important. My guest on the show today is Summer Watson, a classical crossover artist who has great insights on positive attitude and mental health. Summer has performed around the world including Buckingham Palace and a Chinese audience of over 1.3 billion TV viewers and now we have the privilege to chat with her on real pink summer. Welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s such a delight to be here. I’m thrilled.
Well, tell us a little bit about yourself.
So I am a British classical crossover artist, moved to Los Angeles about 11 years ago and I have toured the world singing beautiful classical pieces and that’s kind of melded into some more popular pieces and I’m just spreading the love and the joy of music.
That’s fantastic. And it seems like every time I talk to you, you’re about to go to the studio. So you’re obviously doing a lot of work recording a lot right now, right?
That’s correct. It’s a very busy time right now to get creative. I signed to Sony when I was about 20 years old and toured the world singing beautiful film music and more popular classics, you know, like Eva Cassidy and Barbara Streisand pieces and so forth. But I really think it’s very, very important to share each and every one of our stories in whichever way we can, whether it be through poetry or written word. And obviously for myself, you know, is obviously through song. So, even though I trained as a classical artist and then, toured the world really, places from Buckingham Palace to China, singing for 1.3 billion people, beautiful pieces that already existed. Had you asked me when I was 20, Will you write your own music? I wouldn’t have known the answer. And now this season of which I’m in is just seems to be a beautiful time to reflect and to tell my story through song.
I love that. Well, speaking of telling your story, can you tell us a little bit about your breast cancer story as well?
Absolutely. So, first of all, I’ll preface that. Breast cancer for me was a blessing and some of your listeners might find that a little strange to hear, but I had, 37 years of amazing health. I’d never had a filling, I never had the flu. Cancer and serious illnesses haven’t run in my family. And when I was 37, I decided to get a mammogram as one does at that point in their life. And out of nowhere I thought I was just going to pop in. And get a mammogram and come home again and carry on. Except I was then told, you know, week or so later that I had stage 3/4 breast cancer and really only had about a month to six weeks to make some pretty big decisions. Say that then really was the beginning of a new chapter for me of how I then wanted to look at my life as, as a whole. I mean, I was a fairly disciplined, young lady, the way I lived from, you know, spending time with friends, doing the old school thing of sort of writing letters and writing gratitude notes, enjoying music and so forth. But I had to look at other areas of my life that could have caused the toxicity in my body and how I wanted to approach my life, in the future.
Wow, that’s fantastic. And I know that you feel strongly about the different areas of health that need to be in balance in order to live your best life. Can you, can you talk a little bit more about that?
Yeah, absolutely. So as I say to friends and anyone I speak to, you know, you don’t have to wake up and get diagnosed with cancer. To think about making small changes in your life of how to sustain vibrancy and joy and to spread serotonin rather than fear and negativity. And what I mean by that is, you know how you choosing to live your life. There are many, many areas of your life to look at and it’s all very well to eat fresh produce and greens and drink alkaline water and all the rest of it. But if you’re watching the news and listening to negative radio, then that just fuels the body just as much. It’s a lot to do with mental and emotional wellbeing. How are you choosing to set up your day? Right? We’re in this current season of the coronavirus. Are you choosing to fill your life of fear?
Obviously it’s important to stay informed, but to what level do we need to take that into our system? So if there’s toxicity from the past pain that suffered, whether it be through childhood experiences or you know, family toxicity or friends that we currently have in our life. And even so far as, you know, maybe pain that’s been caused by boyfriends or girlfriends or husbands or ex-husbands or ex-wives, we have to learn. There’s so much out there for us to get our hands on to step one, be able to be at peace with that and to let go of that. Because if we’re still even just slightly thinking about it and it will definitely still reside in the body. Like it has to be completely gone, to be completely at peace for us to be able to move forward in our life. And then we can really tell ourselves, I feel great, I feel strong, I feel happy. So that’s, that’s really been my journey over the last few years. And I joke with friends that I call it, you know: “Get Tigger-fied” from Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. I think everybody needs some pounce in their tail.
I love that. What I’m thinking. I’m hearing you say there three key points that I took down in my notes, for maintaining a healthy mental attitude. One is avoid negativity – so negative anything putting negative things into your mind. Two was be present and three was to watch out for negative relationships.
I liked to, you know, really look at life as a pie chart. So the pie chart enables you to draw a circle and drill sections within that pie chart of what you are currently doing in your life and what is important to you. So you might have one, section – career, another section – family life, and now this section may be relationship, spiritual health, exercise. And then may be leading into community and you will look at your life and say, gosh, you know, 95% of that wheel, the circle, the pie chart is I’m getting up and going to work every day and there’s not much time going to my husband or wife or there’s not much time going to family. I need to readdress that because if it’s all or nothing, your life isn’t going to flow forward.
Yeah. That’s great. I appreciate you sharing that. Uh, so let’s talk a little bit more about cancer. What advice would you give to someone that was recently diagnosed?
First of all, for anybody who has been diagnosed with cancer, my own experience is not to panic. You not truly will go into free fall. Naturally, you might feel numb to it. You might shake, you might, obviously go into a state of fear. But the key element is to almost do kind of like a lockdown, like a where you take inventory of, okay, I’ve had a med medical diagnosis. This is real, what am I going to do about it? And step one is to take some time for yourself. Step two, write out what the practicalities, all of what you have to do. Things like building a team around you, speaking to people who’ve already gone through what happened, the type of cancer that you’ve been diagnosed with. It doesn’t just have to be breast cancer. What did my best tools that I can use?
So do I have a friend who has good administration? Talk to them and assign them the role of doing all the admin. Every time you go to the hospital, or the doctors you’re going to have to fill in myriads of paperwork. And for me it got so, and again, this is just my journey, it got so frustrating having to fill in just reams of the same information. How old are you? What’s your date of birth? What blood type are you, you know, when did you last have your cycle? Like what do you eat? How tall are you? What is your weight? And I got so sick of it. It was such a blessing to be able to have someone else take care of all that. Plus all the bills, plus all of the paperwork. I personally used to find the experience, a little traumatic going into the hospital, you know, every single day for appointments and making the plan of the biopsies to the, do I or do I not do a mastectomy?
Should I do chemo, should I not do radiation? Should I take, you know, all the drugs that they recommend and so forth. And at that time you feel pressured to make decisions immediately. And do you have time? You know, I’m not saying months and months and months, but you know, you have time to make a decision of what you’re going to do, all or nothing or maybe one, a little bit of everything to what works for you and what works for your financial situation. And the key thing is it’s your life and it’s your pathway. You have to sit quietly and really think about what resonates with you. Do you want to just go off in a cabin in middle of nowhere and just juice and do Chakra work and work with a Shaman? And that can work. There are also people who get the biopsies, do the radiation, and then do either a lumpectomy or mastectomy on, some people do double mastectomies and chemo and all the various drugs afterwards. So you have to sit with what works for you because in the end of the day it’s your decision.
And then what I chose when I went through that journey was then to decide and to start to talk to friends and anyone I could get my hands on was what made them happy and what made them laugh. And I started to just really become so excited about finding every comedian I could get my hands on. Comedy, you know, full blown series to podcasts, to goofy cartoons, to anything that made me feel like a kid again and just laugh my pants off. Because laughter was so healing. And even to this day, you know, five, six years later, it’s a choice. Do I sit down and watch some kind of, you know, adventure slash horror kind of movie that’s, yeah, it seems cool and it’s got great music and big guns and you know, good looking people, killing people. But then it never makes me really feel great at the end of it. So, you know, 90% of the time actually choose to just watch comedy and just laugh.
That may be the best description of an action movie I’ve ever heard in my life, by the way. That was genuinely amazing. Wow.
Well they usually are, aren’t they? They spend six months in the gym looking great and they go around with a fake gun.
The only people in action movies, amazing looking people all the time. Just all the action movies. That’s just, that’s how it works. So Summer, this has been really amazing. I do have one final question for you. Uh, talk to us about how Susan G Komen has played a role in your breast cancer journey.
Oh my goodness. So last year I was invited to sing at a concert here in Los Angeles. That was to raise funds for the Komen foundation. And obviously I love to share my gift, but when you get opportunities where you can share your story, which that evening was, that’s what resonates with me. So the Komen Foundation gave me a platform where I could sing and share beautiful music, uplifting music, empowering music, but also a platform for me to be able to share some of my story of empowerment to others that we don’t have to carry a violin around with us and feel sorry for ourselves and the foundation I really believe is doing that and sharing that news with everybody, because it’s not just the people who get diagnosed with the cancer that are going through it. It’s everybody around that one nucleus is going through it. Friends, family.
Yeah. Wow. I love your perspective. I love your positivity. I love your focus on what’s uplifting and supporting. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on the show. It’s really genuinely been a pleasure.
Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really, really appreciate it and to you and family and friends and everyone who’s listening, just remember, it’s all about being “Tigger-fied”, put a pounce in your step. This is a new season for us to really think about how do we want to be functioning emotionally and get prepared to live the most beautiful life and to live our best life because that’s what we were put on this earth to do.
[COVID19 MESSAGE] Help is needed now more than ever. Susan G Komen established the Komen COBIV-19 action fund to support urgent needs among our breast cancer community today. Whether it’s providing answers and counsel for those who can’t see a doctor in person, to those that need financial or treatment assistance. Visit coronavirus.komen.org and donate today.
Thanks to Genentech for supporting Real Pink. To find out more about Genentech’s latest advancements, visit gene.com that’s G E N E .com.
Thanks to Genentech for supporting Real Pink. To find out more about Genentech’s latest research advancements, visit gene.com. Intro and outro music is City Sunshine by Kevin MacLeod. Ad music is Blue Skies by Silent Partner.