August 6, 2008

Young Cancer-Sufferer Gets Singing Lessons From Top Choir


A Teenage music-lover who has been treated for cancer for nearly six years has taken singing lessons with an international gospel choir, thanks to a children's charity.

Alex Cooper, now 16, was told he had between six and 12 months to live when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in August 2002.

But, with the help of a trial form of chemotherapy, he was given the all-clear by doctors two years ago.

The cancer and its treatments gave him a poor short-term memory, tunnel vision, and made it difficult for him to walk far, but he never lost his passion for music.

Now, with the help of children's charity The Joshua Foundation, he has been able to hone his skills with London Community Gospel Choir, which performed at Wayne Rooney's wedding.

His mother, Lorraine, 47, of Linden Close, Kilburn, said the trip, which included Alex having private singing lessons with the choir's principal, the Rev Bazil Meade, had been fantastic.

She said: "It was wonderful. They said his singing was very good. They were great with him. He knew some of the songs but the Reverend made sure he told him the lines before he sang them because of his short-term memory.

"They gave him a goody bag with music vouchers and we went for a meal - all sorted out by the foundation."

Alex sang for the choir at his school, John Flamsteed, in Denby, and during visits to a holiday home in Scotland for adolescents with cancer. He hopes to pursue this interest when he starts a performing and creative skills course at Derby College next month.

Staff at Queen's Medical Centre, in Nottingham, knew about his talent and gave the Joshua Foundation his details when it asked if any of the hospital's young cancer patients would enjoy the trip to London.

Alex said he was grateful to the charity, which helps fulfil the wishes of cancer sufferers. "I really enjoyed it. I'm definitely going to keep going with my singing lessons."

Alex was given the all-clear two years ago, to the delight of his mother and father, Paul, 48. In January 2003, after emergency surgery and radiography had failed, they were told he had only weeks to live and agreed he should receive a trial form of chemotherapy called Temolozomide.

The treatment, which is now more commonplace, was a great success.

Over three-and-a-half years, Alex's condition gradually improved, although a second drug, Thalidomide, which prevents new cancer cells from forming, made him feel tired.

Now, Lorraine says doctors are considering whether to take him off the second drug.

She said: "We are so proud of him. He's always taken everything in his stride and has never let us get upset."

Alex, who still suffers some hair-loss due to the radiotherapy, may also need to have a metal plate inserted in his skull.

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