Composer's musical message of hope

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.

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.

For this month Mrs Dyer, a solicitor from Santon Downham, will put on a concert in aid of Norwich Breast Cancer Resource Fund and Breast Cancer Care at Norwich Cathedral, performing under her maiden name Lydia Kakabadse.

“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.

It was in summer 2000 when Mrs Dyer was living in Bishop's Stortford, in Hertfordshire, that she first noticed a lump in her left breast. After the lump was removed tests revealed it was cancerous and that the cancer had spread through the rest of her breast.


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“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.

In February 2001 Mrs Dyer had the operation to remove her left breast.

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She said: “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. 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. Mrs Dyer was this time treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Spire Hospital.

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 following the operation she had radiotherapy treatment in May and June last year 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, while wearing a wig to cover her loss of hair and long sleeves to cover unsightly veins on her arm caused by 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 more of a spiritual level and my mind focused on something else rather than the treatment.”

The concert at Norwich Cathedral, called An evening of musical theatre and chamber works, starts at 7.30pm on Saturday, March 21. It includes Mrs Dyer's own music, presented under her maiden name, Lydia Kakabadse, and the last two movements of Schubert's Trout Quintet.

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

Tickets 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. The phone number for Prelude Records is 01603 628319.

Proceeds will go to Norwich Breast Cancer Resource Fund and Breast Cancer Care, and this will add to the �570 Mrs Dyer has received in donations and other money raised from activities such as auctions and a cake bake day.

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