A Leicester musician who ‘lost’ her voice to cancer has released a new single and starred in a new charity campaign.
Musician Ruby Walvin, 21, from Leicester, was just 19 when she was diagnosed with leukaemia last year.
During her gruelling treatment, she became so distressed and weakened that she stopped singing and was unable to play the guitar.
The Unstoppable fundraising campaign celebrates the strength and determination of young people with cancer like Ruby during the pandemic with the Teenage Cancer Trust staff supporting them, despite the charity’s 50% drop in income due to cancelled fundraising events.
The film shows Ruby’s rollercoaster journey over the past year, including treatment through lockdown, and lays bare the challenges of living with cancer as a young person.
Ruby was in her first year of university at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts when she began to feel fatigued. After collapsing and being admitted to hospital, tests found she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
Ruby said: “I knew I needed my family around me during treatment, so I decided to come home to Leicester.”
Teenage Cancer Trust funds 28 specialist units around the country to bring teens and young adults together to face the challenges of cancer and be treated by teenage cancer experts in a place designed just for them, and Ruby felt the benefit of the charity’s unit in Leicester.
Ruby explained: “I was transferred to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. When we arrived, the staff offered my mum tea and toast. It was so nice that they were there as being welcomed in such a friendly way made things easier.
"I’d gone from being on an adult ward in Liverpool where they woke me at 7 am and had strict visiting times, to my mum being able to stay overnight on the unit. It was a very traumatic time so it was a massive thing that she could be there with me.
“The mental effect of treatment was very bad, and I got very low moods. My mum stayed at the hospital every night to support me. When I woke from morphine-induced nightmares I needed her there to calm me down.
An additional source of help for Ruby came through Lois, a Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Co-ordinator who provides emotional and practical support to the patients on the unit, and who also features in the Unstoppable film.
But cancer, gruelling treatment, and then sepsis in her shoulder that needed an operation meant she stopped singing and was unable to play the guitar for months.
“I didn’t sing for eight months after my treatment started as I felt too ill and it was mentally painful, and I couldn’t play the guitar after the operation. I lost my identity and my voice.
It wasn’t until lockdown started in March that Ruby was able to pick up her guitar and play it again.
She added: “I hadn’t played or sung for months and I was worried that I wouldn’t be any good anymore. But it made me realise how far I’d come.
“During treatment, I’d jotted down lyrics here and there about what was happening to me. As I had to shield at home during the pandemic, I had more time on my hands, and I started to put them together to music.
"My new single, The Game, is the result. It’s about how overcoming obstacles in life is like overcoming different levels on a game.
“Not all of the friends I met on the Teenage Cancer Trust survived. I get upset when people refer to people with cancer as ‘having lost their battle’.
"We have no control over what happens to us, whether we live or die. We just play the game as best we can and that is what the song is about, but really anyone going through struggles in life will be able to identify with the lyrics."
“I really hope that people take a moment to listen to my new song and donate to Teenage Cancer Trust because the work they do is amazing."
Ruby’s chemotherapy treatment will continue until 2021.
Text HELP to 70575 to donate £5 to Teenage Cancer Trust's Unstoppable appeal, or visit teenagecancertrust.org/help.