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Inspirational Singer & Breast Cancer Survivor Beverley Craven on Women Fitness

Beverley Craven, a British singer-songwriter is best known for her 1991 UK hit single “Promise Me

In 2018, Craven was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and lymph node surgery followed by chemotherapy treatment, resulting in an interruption in her Woman to Woman tour, which was resumed in 2019 after her health improved

In her first ever interview on Women Fitness, Top Singer Beverley Craven, a four million record holder is in coversation with Namita Nayyar, President, Women Fitness on her “Take me Out” journey with Breast Cancer.

Becoming a British singer-songwriter best known for your UK hit single “Promise Me” was a dream come true. Share a brief about your journey as a popular singer, mother, and a breast cancer survivor. 

I started taking classical piano lessons at the age of 7, encouraged by my mother who was a classical violinist and a piano teacher. At the age of 15, I began writing my own songs, inspired by the likes of Kate Bush, Judie Tzuke, Elton John, Billy Joel, Randy Crawford and the Bee Gees, to name just a few! I left home at 18 and moved to London where I worked with various bands playing keyboards and singing backing vocals. By the age of 21 I decided I wanted to be a song writer. I didn’t feel compelled to be a performer at all – I just wanted to write for other singers. But my songs were personal to me and several people suggested I should try to get my own record deal.

I signed with Epic Records and Warner Brothers publishing in 1988 at the age of 25. My first album and the single ‘Promise Me’ were released in 1990. No one was more surprised than me when the album and the single became worldwide hits! It was a very busy and tiring time promoting my singles and I resented the fact that being successful took me away from my first love, which was writing music.

In between the 1st and 2nd albums I fell pregnant with my first daughter, Mollie, who is now 28! Motherhood was very hard…all-consuming and overwhelming. Over the next few years my three daughters (Brenna 25 and Connie 24) became my priority and, unsurprisingly, music took a back seat – being a Mum is the hardest job in the world, but also the best! I released my last album, Mixed Emotions, with Epic in 2000.

Then in 2005 when I was 41yrs old I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy (Tamoxifen). I released two more self-produced albums (2008 and 2014) and then in 2018, when I was 55yrs old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.

When did you first realize that something was wrong with your health? You and your family’s first reaction when you were informed about this disease.

On both occasions I found a lump with self-examination. In hindsight I should have reacted sooner but in most cases lumps and bumps are benign, and it takes courage to get these things checked out. I had an ultrasound scan followed by a biopsy, which confirmed my fears.

The first time I had breast cancer I didn’t tell the girls until I decided to go public – they were still quite young at the time and I didn’t want them to worry.

The second time I told them as soon as it was confirmed. I didn’t tell my Mum until after I’d had the bilateral mastectomy because she was still mourning the loss of my younger sister, Kathy, who died of breast cancer in 2014. My younger two daughters seemed fairly calm when I told them, but Mollie took it very hard.

As mentioned you were diagnosed with breast cancer twice and underwent a double mastectomy, lymph node clearance, and a five-month course of chemotherapy. According to you what precautions and watch out signs women should keep a track to seek early diagnosis and treatment?

As I said, on both occasions I found the lump myself. Mammograms don’t always show up anything sinister, especially if you are a relatively young woman because the breast tissue is too dense.

If you are familiar with the look and feel of your own breasts then you can spot any changes, and the earlier the better.

How did you go about with the therapy, where you still working all through, and who all kept you going during this tough time?

I could have opted for another lumpectomy but given my family history of breast cancer (I also lost my cousin Sara at the age of 46 and my aunt was diagnosed with beast cancer twice) I decided it would be sensible to reduce my risk as much as possible and have a bilateral mastectomy. It was a huge decision and I can’t say that I don’t mourn the loss of my breasts, but I’d spent the last 13 years worrying about being diagnosed for a second time and I wanted to reduce my chances of a third occurrence, so I took the plunge…

The chemotherapy was gruelling – I was actually hospitalised for 5 days after the first session. In between the surgery and the chemo I’d done a 22 date tour of the UK with fellow singer song writers Julia Fordham and Judie Tzuke.

My best friend Kate, my daughters and my partner Mike supported me throughout the treatment. I don’t know how I would’ve done it without them.

Diet and exercise routine or therapy that really helped you along. Please elaborate

I’ve always had a healthy diet – I’m now strictly vegan – and although one could always do more exercise, I walk the dog and do the gardening, which keeps me fairly fit. In my case, there is a strong genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

Tests have not identified a breast cancer gene, as such, but a process called gene methylation is thought to be the cause.

According to you “going back on tour with fellow singers Julia Fordham and Judie Tzuke’ is a reward after months of arduous cancer treatment.” Please share more input on how this kept you going

After I’d finished the chemo in April 2019, the second leg of our rescheduled ‘Woman To Woman’ tour was something I could look forward to and focus on. It’s good to have goals to work towards and it kept me positive and determined

Message for your daughters and other young women to follow a health & fitness routine to overcome physical & mental challenges.

My daughters don’t need any advice from me! They know they have a heightened risk of breast cancer but then, sadly, it does appear to be on the rise in the general population as well, which may be due to environmental factors.

Most breast cancers are hormone receptor positive so I would be very wary of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for women experiencing difficulties with menopausal symptoms.

We are all brainwashed into believing that ageing and the loss of our youthful appearance is to be avoided at all costs. Cosmetic procedures are de rigueur these days. But the truth is we should be celebrating our longevity and thankful that we are still here despite the fragility of life.

Women Fitness Team is grateful to Beverley Craven for sharing her story on our website.

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