Fighting Cancer with Music

Name: Jayne Barker

Date of diagnosis: 2016

Age at diagnosis: 31

I am: an active, primary school music teacher, world traveller, and musician. I choose to use my time with cancer to fill the world with music instead of letting my final years be consumed by disease.

The cancer was found when: I was tested for common gynaecological issues after I pushed my GP for 10 months about endometriosis and PCOS symptoms. Sadly, samples came back showing a stage 3 diagnosis of my secretive spreading low-grade serous ovarian cancer.

‘Why?’ Was the big question. My oncologist suggested that by stage 3 looking back and asking ‘why’ would be a waste of time and my life. So, I made a decision. I would not spend my final years trying to fix the unfixable. To me, the cancer won the second I knew about it. There was never a ‘fight’ for me. I knew that it was inevitable, it will take my life and all these treatments won’t save me, but the doctors did buy me some time.

Instead of focusing on the cancer, I turned my focus to music. My kids music charity that donates free keyboards to young people who don’t have an instrument to play at home took on a new meaning! I now had a legacy to leave in this world. My life will be cut far too short, but music is a gift I can give kids now that will last them their lifetimes. Giving free keyboards to talented young students is a way for me to have a positive influence in people’s lives even after I’m gone.

My personal cause, ‘Good Note Music’ has already changed lives.

“I received a keyboard from Jayne. In the past I had never really felt confident in myself… After receiving this, it made me feel like I actually was good at something and this grew my self esteem.”- Molly -Free keyboard recipient.

But that was not enough. I wanted to leave my voice behind. Luckily, I stumbled on an opportunity to become the next lyricist and song creator for the up and coming Australian kids entertainment band, ‘Team Dream.’

Through teaching colleagues and friends I found myself swept up in a world of song writing from home while recovering between treatments. A fun world of sparkles, stars, rainbows and happy songs! With the ever present motivation of limited time, I began creating music like never before. I have so much inspiration to write the happiest, most fun songs I can during what is the toughest and darkest time of my life. I know that life can be painful, I’ve lived though physical suffering you cannot imagine from these treatments… but, on the good days in between, I have music to get me through.

Music has the power to make the world a bit brighter, even when life is very scary.

I received some very special encouragement when ‘Dreams2live4’ granted my a wish and reached out to the famous, award winning ‘Hamilton’ composer Lin-Manuel Miranda on my behalf. I keep his personal letter of encouragement above my piano. I can’t believe Lin-Manuel is telling me I’m strong! He’s my musical idol, I feel uplifted every time I look at his letter.

So, I am now 35 years old and nearing the end of what medical science can provide to help keep me going. But a little bit of good news. I’m hoping to make it to see a special milestone with my music in June, 2020. ‘Team Dream’ are releasing a debut album of kids music which I wrote and recorded 9 of the songs for! A momentous achievement where the passion I’ve poured into making happy music for kids, while living with cancer these last few years, will be available to the world to make it a bit brighter. My words and the sounds of my instruments, will all be out there to live on forever, long after I’m gone.

I thought when I was young I wanted to be a famous singer, but now I realise, I never wanted to be famous, I really wanted to live a life that had a great impact and be a positive influence in this world. I think the kids music I’ve written for ‘Team Dream’ is exactly that. A way to be a part of many families lives whose I will never know or meet. But from my music, I will be in some way making their lives a bit brighter. Or they will hate me because my songs are too catchy! Ha ha, we’ll see.

I hope my story can bring some awareness to this rare cancer. It has a long and annoying name that’s hard to say, maybe if we renamed it we could get better support! But for now the charity trying to help us is called ‘Cure Our Ovarian Cancer.’ If you want to help research for girls like me, that’s the best place to donate to, thank you. – Jayne