Young mom's song to be used in cancer-awareness campaign

Lillian
Lillian Simmons
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Dana Cox plays a tune on her favourite guitar. Her first single,

When Dana Cox sings “No Time For You,” people cry.  The young mother of three wrote it while on her way home one day from a radiation treatment in St. John’s. The “you” she refers to is cancer.

“But it’s not a sad song,” she protests. “I don’t cry when I sing it and I didn’t cry when I wrote it.”

Perhaps it’s not sadness that brings people to tears. Perhaps it’s just the simple straight-from-the heart honesty of the singer and her song.

Relaxed, sipping coffee at her dining room table, she tells her story with candid sincerity.

Cox , her husband Todd and their three children — Spencer, 8, Bella, 6, and Claire, 4 — live with Dana’s parents, Wayne and Hertha Blackwood, in Salmon Cove.

The song, which is currently being recorded as her first single, was written “just to get out what was in my head,” she says.

On the drive home from the treatment, she stopped several times, each time typing part of the emerging song into the note section of her phone.

“By the time I got home I had the song written, start to finish, music, the whole kit and kaboodle. And it wasn’t for any purpose as such. … It was just the fuss of having to make sure there was someone there to watch the kids, you can’t make any plans, you have to go to St. John’s every day for 30-plus days. It was a real nuisance. I was getting a little ticked off with it, to be honest, to the point where I thought I’ve got to get this out because I was so irritated. I certainly didn’t have time for (cancer). I had a life, I had kids, I had a husband, a job.”

Roller coaster

Cox discovered a lump in her breast in May 2010. Although her husband urged her to get it checked right away, she didn’t.

“I totally forgot about it after that. Obviously, it wasn’t causing any pain, and I just forgot about it.”

A month later she noticed an indentation in her breast, which looked somewhat triangular. Earlier that year, two of her mother’s sisters had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“One of them had mentioned the doctor talking about indentation and Mom just happened to mention it to me in passing and that’s what I remembered. And I thought, perhaps I should go to my doctor.”

On June 3, she did, and was scheduled for an ultrasound the next day, followed by a mammogram. A week later, she found herself in a surgeon’s office.

“He told me right then and there, we’re going to take this out, we’re not going to do a biopsy — in his words — to confirm what we already know. Twelve days later, June 15, I had surgery. It was unbelievable.”

It’s odd, she says, how certain events were coincidental.

“That was in St. Anthony. We were living on the Northern Peninsula, in Pond Cove. I was teaching in Plum Point. He was a doctor who was filling in. He got there when I got there and he left the day after my post-op appointment. It was like he fell right from the heavens. He came there for me and he left right after, that’s what it felt like.”

Cox went through several surgeries (sentinel node biopsies) and 11 lymph nodes were removed. One was affected with the disease.

Meanwhile, in January, five months prior to the diagnosis, she and her husband had made the decision to move to the Avalon Peninsula. They wanted to be closer to family and check out some work opportunities. In February, they had an offer on their house, but they were unable to move until the end of the school year. The buyer offered to purchase the house and have them rent it until June.

“It was as if the stars aligned and everything just fell right into place. We didn’t have the worry of the house. He took over the house in April. I was diagnosed in June.”

After moving to Salmon Cove, Cox did six rounds of chemotherapy at Carbonear Hospital and 30 radiation treatments in St. John’s.

Last year, she went to a breast cancer retreat in St. John’s, where she met Paula Tessier, development officer with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF).

“We hit it off right from the get-go.”

She was asked to sing “No Time For You” at the retreat.

“I’ve never been so nervous about singing in my entire life. I couldn’t even breathe sensibly. The song got a very warm reception.”

Since then she’s performed it at various events in the province.

She says the support she’s received from family, friends and strangers has been overwhelming.

Idea guys

A short time later, Tessier introduced Cox to Dan Villeneuve, who is part owner of a company called Big Idea Guys in San Jose, Calif., which markets guitar picks under the name Hot Picks USA.

Hot Picks has teamed up with the CBCF in a campaign called Pick Hope to raise money and awareness.

Tessier arranged for Cox and Villeneuve to meet at a coffee shop in St. John’s, where she played the song for him.

“He’s a wonderful man, very enthusiastic, energetic, a real go-getter.”

Through the generosity of Villeneuve’s company and Stagehouse Recording Artist Studio in St. Philip’s, Cox ’s first single is now nearing completion.

“No Time For You” will be launched March 21 during a national Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign that will kick off in St. John’s.

Unexpected return

In September 2011, Cox noticed some back pain and thought she had pulled a muscle.

When it didn’t get better, she went to her doctor to have it checked. Two days before Christmas, she was on the phone booking appointments for bone scans.

“It’s a Christmas we won’t soon forget,” she says.

On Jan. 15, Cox learned the cancer had returned.

“It’s now in my lowest rib in my back and from what they can tell it’s the only place that it is at this point. So it doesn’t mean treatments right now, only a matter of changing pills. No chemo, no radiation at this point, until it spreads. Hopefully that won’t be for a while,” she says. “The nature of the beast is that once it hits your bones, it’s no longer curable.”

There is no tumour, but the bone is disintegrating, thinning out. If the medication works, the bone should start to regenerate.

“I asked about having the rib removed. I just wanted it out,” she says, pausing with a laugh. “I was really excited. I wanted the rib on the other side taken out too, to give me a smaller waistline.”

Cox will have scans done every three months, the next one in April.

“My cancer is estrogen receptor positive and PR (progesterone receptor) positive. It feeds off estrogen.”

 

She is getting injections to shut down the production of estrogen, forcing her into early menopause.

The second diagnosis was an unexpected blow, but she doesn’t buckle.

“I forget what’s going on. I’ve felt like this right on through my treatments. I’ve felt wonderful. I was tired and a little run down, but that was minor. But this recurrence threw me for a loop because I still forget that I have it. They said I’m a very unusual case because normally they find it on more than one bone.

 “For those first few days when I let myself think this is not curable, it was overwhelming. When I look at my kids, when I think about their future and, will I or will I not be a part of that — it was rough.”

But while she is honest with herself, she doesn’t let her thoughts go in that direction.

“Right now we have a future. Whatever that holds, we’ll deal with it then. I know no other way to go through this. As it stands right now I’m going to be there for everything that happens.”

Cox and her husband have been together 17 years, and married for 11.

“He was my high school sweetheart,” she says.

They know the “roller coaster ride” has had an effect on their children and they have tried to keep them informed. Better that than they find out from someone else, she says.

“When the second diagnosis came, Todd didn’t want to tell them.”

It wasn’t easy.

“Mom’s not going to lose her hair, or be sick,” they told the children. “Cancer is kind of like school. You’re scared at first, but every day it gets a bit easier.”

Cox continues to write songs for what she hopes will eventually be part of an original album. And with siblings and parents who sing “beautiful harmonies” together, she would like to get her family involved.

“Back in June of 2010, I thought I was dying and I wasn’t. Now, knowing that it’s back, knowing that it’s no longer curable, I want this album. Not for me, but so that if something — God forbid — happens, then my kids will have it.”

Organizations: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Carbonear Hospital

Geographic location: Salmon Cove, St. Anthony, Pond Cove Plum Point San Jose, Calif.

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Jan
    May 12, 2013 - 08:19

    Dana, Thank you for sharing your personal journey and I trust God has a great purpose for you. You and your family are in my heart and prayers and I will look forward to many albums in the years to come when you are healed. May God Bless you daily along your journey.

  • Daphne Blandford
    May 11, 2013 - 20:17

    Hi Dana, It's wonderful to know that you are telling your story and hopefully some young mother like you, or anyone for that matter, who might be going through a similar experience can get strength and courage to face their "unknown path". It is known to you and you've proven that you've faced it head on with determination and a very positive attitude which is half the battle, I believe, in curing the disease within you. Faith can move mountains, you only need it as small as a mustard seed, it grows along with you. Right now, our friends grandson, 19 yr.. is going through a similar experience, I hope he hears your story, it is so encouraging. God Bless my dear, keep chin up and exercise your Faith right now as you need it. With love, Daphne

  • Melissa
    April 05, 2013 - 13:34

    Thank you! For sharing your courage and your amazing out look on life.. The world could learn a lot from A wonderful women like you.. Stay strong! You and Your love ones will always be in my prayers... Simply Amazing!!!!! You go girl.......

  • Elsie Johnson
    March 20, 2012 - 09:05

    Dana~You Impress me every time I read ANYthing you have to say. I am in awe of the cute little girl, and her little sister Sara, that used to sit ahead of me in church so many years ago, it seems. I'm so glad we're all Friends. I'm sure you know all too well what a God-given talent you have as does your Parents...and to see and hear you use it in such a Positive way, impresses me, and I am elated to Tears of Joy~ Tell Wayne I almost didn't cry (:-) You are as beutiful on the Outside as you are Inside....and I mean that with all my heart, and may God in His Infinate mercy Bless and keep you safe....FOREVER..!! All my Love and Squeezes....elsie

  • Lisa
    March 15, 2012 - 08:59

    What an amazing lady...a true inspiration you have such a positive attitude it's truly amazing. Miracles do happen!! Sending lots of prayers your way!

  • Louise Greenslade
    March 15, 2012 - 08:06

    Dana , I beleive you are one of God's Angels here on earth to be an example for all of us .I hope I can be so positive and strong ,if I ever became terminally ill. May God bless you and your family , I will keep you in my prayers as Iam sure many others will also ,and I will never stop beleiving in God's miracles

  • Daphne Peach
    March 09, 2012 - 08:26

    Dana,you are an inspiration to all cancer sufferers and survivors.The best of luck to you and all your family, with your spirit and determination you will be with us for a long while yet.keeppositive thoughts.hugs to all of you

  • Kelly Walsh
    February 29, 2012 - 16:16

    I first heard you sing your song during Joanne's Journey at the Arts and Culture Centre. I thought to myself, what a beautiful song. What a beautiful voice and most of all, what a strong courageous woman. To here that you are going through this yet again is just not fair. I have no doubt in my mind,after reading your story, that you have what it takes to beat this thing. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family as you go through this difficult journey together. You are such an inspiration to all. I look forward to hearing more songs.

  • Barbara Crawford
    February 28, 2012 - 13:58

    Dana, if I were Cancer, I would be very afraid of you!! You are an inspiration, to us all. I know your family and I know they are in awe of you as we all are!! Your song is amazing and I'm sure many cancer patients have gained strength from it!! Good Luck, Dana.

  • Joann Jessome
    February 26, 2012 - 16:54

    Dear Dana from reading your letter you are a strong courageous lady ,i truly hate that( C )word it scares the hell out of me as i have had that same scare 32 years ago this march i had to have a bilateral mastectomy i was just 23 years of age .But you know they preach about lumps in the breast and else where, you see i never had lumps i had seeping and a terrible odor coming from my breast the nipple area and pain beyond control also deteriation of the breast ....when i was told by specialists in Halifax that i had a choice to have the surgery or Die within the year i took the lader because like you i had 2 small children that needed me and a husband at that time .My point to all this is you have the attitude to beat this and i know you can so keep your chin up and your spirits as God will help you as he did me and i thank him everyday for his help may god blesss yopu and your family and i truly hope all goes well for you .... Sincerely Jo-ann Jessome Cape Breton

  • Lindahl
    February 25, 2012 - 22:31

    Dana and Todd You have already won half the battle with your positve attitude. Your song is wonderful and inspiring. Stay positive and you will win out. Best of luck.

  • DENISE BAKER
    February 25, 2012 - 19:05

    Dana, you are amazing!!!!! you make me cry every time i hear your song, my heart aches for you and your family. hugssssssssssssss Just want to let you know my thoughts and prayers are with you .God Bless

  • jennifer
    February 25, 2012 - 18:57

    this is the link for the video of this song. just beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U07BVbZerhE

  • maxine
    February 25, 2012 - 17:43

    An amazingly gifted ,courageous woman u r Dana, i have to tell u i read your story eventually, through the tears, u WILL get through this ,your determination will get u there!

    • MAW
      February 25, 2012 - 20:04

      An amazing women!!!!

  • Eunice Ryan
    February 25, 2012 - 16:32

    What a story. I was only going to scan it, but it was soo amazing, I had to read it all. "Good Luck " with NO TIME FOR YOU . I sincerely hope Cancer will be a word from your past, and never again forwarded to your future. God Bless you and your family.

  • stephanie cunard
    February 25, 2012 - 15:31

    Amazing women! Loved reading every word! U are an inspiration to ALL! PROUD TO CALL U A FRIEND.

  • MARY
    February 25, 2012 - 14:59

    DANA YOU ARE A SWEETHEART I BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL BE WITH YOU IYOU TAKE.I PRAY FOR YOU WITH ALL MY HEART HAVEN;T STOPPED.XXOO

  • Judi B
    February 25, 2012 - 13:07

    Dana is an inspiration! I am honored to call her my friend. She always has a smile and kind word...and she will beat this again...because I BELIEVE!

  • Cathy M
    February 25, 2012 - 12:39

    Beautiful voice, beautiful words, beautiful lady. Wishing you success in battling this horrid disease. I Believe!!

  • BARB. B
    February 25, 2012 - 12:25

    Dana is an amazing person and definitely an inspiration to many who are battling this terrible disease. God Bless you Dana for having the desire to use your God given talents in a most positive way. May you have many years to continue to do those things that are oh so important to you. Prayers are offered for you.

  • Lisa Way
    February 25, 2012 - 12:22

    What a truely inspirational woman. She has taugh all of us that know her the true meaning of the word believe. She has been put on this earth to do great things, and this journey is far from over. "No time for you" is a touching, empowering song and shows this woman's true spirit,

  • Michelle
    February 25, 2012 - 11:13

    What an Amazing Woman. Your story is to touching, your song is amazing. All the best with your album and your future.

  • Melissa Collins
    February 25, 2012 - 11:11

    Congratulations on this story. While it is heart wrenching to hear of a beautiful young mother going through such hardship it is refreshing to see such a positive attitude on the life that she is living. Dana is an inspiration to those who have loved ones living with cancer and a gentle reminder of those we have lost. I wish her every success with her album and thank her for sharing her beautiful song .

  • Freda Winsor
    February 25, 2012 - 10:47

    What a wonderful woman, her children and family are always first. If anyone have't heard her song I suggest you listen to it. It is on u tube "No Time For You:

    • Diane D.
      February 25, 2012 - 19:53

      Dana, you are a strong, courageous and beautiful lady!! You are an inspiration, not only to your family and friends but to all who have the privilege to read/ hear your story. As one who has taken your journey, I am well aware how difficult it is and am very proud of the fact you have not let it consume you. Your song speaks of your strength and spirit and is amazing. I know that you WILL complete this album and I wish you every success with it and with your renewed battle!!