If her bald head didn’t give it away, no one would ever think that the happy, fun and chatty young woman sitting in front of us at the table suffered from cancer. After the diagnosis, most people usually fall into a deep hole, many lose their positive thinking and sense of the good things in life. But not this incredibly courageous and inspiring woman!
It has been eight months since Brighton-based singer-songwriter Abi Flynn was diagnosed with cancer and she is more than fine with it. Rather than seeing her disease as a massive setback, Abi talks about her cancer as a “blessing in disguise”. When meeting us in a little cafe in Hove, the singer told us about her strangely positive cancer experience.
It was only the morning of the interview that Abi had had bad news. The second chemo which should have killed her, luckily curable, cancer once and for all didn’t work. Surprisingly, Abi can already smile again just a few hours later, thanks to her belief that there will be something positive following the bad news.
“Everything that has happened to me ever after my cancer diagnosis has pointed me in a good direction, even if it was in a really weird way. I kind of still believe that even if something appears to be really shit, it will all probably reveal itself to be something totally beautiful later on”, explains the singer for whom her cancer has been what she calls a “massive wake-up call”.
“I remember sitting down on the beach alone one day when the diagnose was quite fresh and I just broke down from the shock of it all and it suddenly hit me how miserable I had been during all these years. When I got diagnosed with cancer, I realized that I needed to change my outlook. Nothing could have ever made me face the pain I had been feeling except something huge”, describes Abi on her sudden realization that she had to change things.
The moment Abi found out about her disease, she was genuinely stuck in many regards. Although she had been offered a record deal shortly before, she didn’t feel like she was able to take it as her music writing didn’t work how she wanted it.
“I took the record deal, but I didn’t have any self-esteem. I couldn’t push myself enough to make it happen. I couldn’t believe someone believed in me”, says Abi about her lack of self-confidence. But as soon as she got the diagnosis, everything amazingly changed for the better:
“Things just kept happening. I suddenly could write music again and that made me feel really comfortable and appeased for the first time in a very long time. It made me feel something for the first time again and that is why it has been so positive for me.”
Before, Abi says she was in a state of self-denial and not listening to her inner self, unable to face problems and issues that weighed heavy on her soul: “I was always very sensitive and dark on the inside, in a sense that I did suffer a lot of anxiety and I wasn’t comfortable with myself and I didn’t love myself. It always just felt like I wasn’t good enough to achieve things in life. I have always had these issues deep down inside me that I knew I needed to work on.”
These feelings of anxiety and self-denial went so far that Abi even forgot who she was as a person. In those times, she tried to escape from reality by doing as many gigs as possible.
“I sort of used my singing in a way as others use alcohol. When I was singing that was the only time that I could feel relief from my anxiety, and I kind of got addicted to singing. I was using it as a way to escape. I had that feeling that, if I am not singing, I am nobody”, describes Abi of this horrible experience.
If music was what gave her shelter back then, things haven’t changed much ever since. Having never done anything else in her life, the singer continued writing music and performing throughout the cancer treatment. She even went on stage straight after the shocking news, an unforgettable and curing experience.
“I had a gig at Brighton music hall that day and I still went. I didn’t know how to proceed my emotions, so the best thing for me to do was to go on stage and just sing because that’s where I feel most at home. And while I was singing, I had that realization that everything was fine. I just had that feeling of being invincible. It just came from nowhere but I knew deep inside that I was gonna get through this”, remembers Abi, the gig that changed everything.
After this genuinely freeing experience, Abi found her way back to her beloved music and rediscovered her inner artist: “I wasn’t in touch with my truth and at this stage, you can’t make art. But when I got back in touch with myself, I didn’t need to have to try hard anymore. I would just sit down and it would just come to me and I would just write it down, just writing what I felt, plain and simple. I think I had forgotten what art was and what being an artist was.”
“The music I wrote after this just sounded so much more fluent and passionate, and not forced anymore. It is art compared to the forced tracks I did before”, describes Abi of how her music has changed for the better thanks to her cancer experience.
A positive influence on her songwriting, sorting out issues with her family, rediscovering the beauty in life… the young woman has had many good things come her way ever since the life-changing diagnosis, up to a point where she even says being “grateful” for having cancer. If she had the choice between her old unhappy life without cancer or her life as it is now, she says she would decide to have cancer:
“I am so happy now to be awakened from the pain I was in before. I am so grateful for the cancer. I don’t want to offend people. I am not saying cancer is a good thing, but for me having cancer made me live my life more passionately, with more happiness, with more joy, with more authenticity mainly.”
This is the message Abi wants to give to other people. Throughout her experience, she has been writing a blog, telling people how things made her feel and addressing hurtful issues like the loss of her fertility, but mainly sharing her experience of transcending her fears:
“I just wanted them to know how great it felt to overcome my fears and every time I discovered something so amazing, I couldn’t keep to myself. I just wanted to scream it out from a rooftop. So blogging was the best way to say ‘Guys, you can do anything! Look at me, I have cancer and everything is ok!'”
Writing this blog is her way to connect to people and to get others to share their stories as well: “I want people to connect with what is really going on in their lives and in their body. No matter the pain, you have to allow it to be there because then it will start healing. I just want to open everyone”, says Abi with a laugh.
Even her bald head doesn’t bother her. The only time she wears a wig is when she knows that she will be in contact with people that do not know about her cancer: “I don’t care whether I’ve got hair anymore or not, but I feel uncomfortable when people see me and feel awkward because of my bald head. I am wearing my cancer with a smile. I generally feel fine about it.”
The singer-songwriter is full of energy and has got big plans for the future, even though she will have to think about starting a stronger cancer treatment soon. After her blog, she is thinking about writing a book she wants to call “The Cancer Alchemist”, as she sees herself.
And of course, she wants to give it all for her music: “I really want to spread my message through my songs because I think connecting through music is one of the most powerful ways that people can connect to each other!” With her first EP ‘Ambiguous’ being released on the 7th of July by Tru Thoughts, the passionate singer really wants to start through.
We wish her all the best for her music, her cancer treatment, and her future before she leaves us to go home where her computer is already waiting for her to write down a new blog entry.