Musical therapy opens up new world for breast cancer patient

Lesley Whiteley
Lesley Whiteley
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Lesley Whiteley had gone 22 years from her initial diagnosis of breast cancer before being told the disease had returned.

Since her first diagnosis, a support centre for people with breast cancer and their families had opened in Leeds.

So five years ago Lesley, from Pudsey, started going to Breast Cancer Haven Yorkshire at their city centre base.

“They have always been welcoming and supportive whenever I’ve needed it,” she said.

And thanks to Breast Cancer Haven, she has found a new love of playing music which has brought her enjoyment and helped her cope with her illness.

The 63-year-old first had treatment for the disease, including a mastectomy, when she was in her early 40s.

In 2011, she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer after suffering from a persistent cough and was referred to Breast Cancer Haven.

Visitors initially have an introductory meeting with manager Debra Horsman, who finds out about their journey and develops a programme of activities.

The centre offers a range of therapies in its relaxing base, from yoga and tai chi, to aromatherapy, reiki and acupuncture. There are also sessions on nutrition, hair and beauty and bra fitting.

Initially Lesley underwent counselling and shiatsu massage. She also learnt relaxation techniques which she still uses and regularly has acupuncture.

She also joined a singing group, which helped to deal with her feelings about the diagnosis.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to express things, but you can just let all those emotions out when you’re singing,” she said.

“That’s what’s really great about the Haven. It allows you to live your life and forget about having breast cancer. It allows you to get on with that.”

Being involved with the group gave Lesley the confidence to join another choir, then take up playing the ukulele. That led her to Otley Ukulele Orchestra, which has held fundraisers for the Haven, and now she has started a ukulele group in Pudsey.

“I’m now on a mission to get everyone to play it,” the grandma-of-three said.

“I just take advantage of everything and there’s so much at the Haven. Just recently I had a change of medication and I had a severe reaction and ended up in hospital. As a result, Debra has increased the support I have. The Haven has helped me by being there at the tough times and I know my family can access it if they need support.

“Personally I couldn’t have achieved as much as I have without the Haven being there in the background but being accessible.”

* October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with activities going on across the country to increase knowledge of the illness as well as boost awareness of support services.

Products ranging from crumpets to clothes and handbags will be on sale raising money for breast cancer charities. Breast Cancer Haven is holding 31 days of fundraising for the month and throughout, products including a special 50 Shades of Pink Lip Palette are available at