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Article updated: 4/24/2013 4:57 PM

Special chorus brings cancer survivors together

The Voices of Hope chorus brings together cancer survivors and others touched by the disease to perform songs of strength and support.

The Voices of Hope chorus brings together cancer survivors and others touched by the disease to perform songs of strength and support.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

In 10 weeks of rehearsals, members of the Voices of Hope chorus have found the camaraderie of people who understand their experience in fighting cancer and the joy they feel in singing.

In 10 weeks of rehearsals, members of the Voices of Hope chorus have found the camaraderie of people who understand their experience in fighting cancer and the joy they feel in singing.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

The Voices of Hope chorus performs for the first time on Sunday, April 28.

The Voices of Hope chorus performs for the first time on Sunday, April 28.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Bonnie Klee Roberts conducts the Voices of Hope chorus that will perform uplifting songs in concert on Sunday, April 28. Roberts also directs the Naperville Menís Glee Club, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary during the concert.

Bonnie Klee Roberts conducts the Voices of Hope chorus that will perform uplifting songs in concert on Sunday, April 28. Roberts also directs the Naperville Men's Glee Club, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary during the concert.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

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Words have been life-changing for members of the Voices of Hope chorus.

Of course, they've been moved by the lyrics they've read, rehearsed and sung to audiences.

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If you go

If you go
What: Voices of Hope, a concert of inspiration for those touched by cancer
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28
Where: Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, free for cancer survivors
Info: nmgc.org or (630) 448-0518

But the words that changed everything were those delivered by a doctor:

"You have cancer."

For most chorus members, the words have been a personal diagnosis -- the end of one kind of life and the start of another. The beginning of treatments, of viewing themselves differently and being seen differently by others. Of appreciating the world in a new way, from the blue of the sky to, yes, the lyrics of a song.

The chorus came together 10 weeks ago under the auspices of the Naperville Men's Glee Club "to gather people who have, or have had, a role in the fight against cancer and to provide an opportunity for them to feel the inspiration, thrill and deep affection for life that comes through singing," director Bonnie Klee Roberts said.

On Sunday, April 27, the chorus will perform for the first time to sing music of hope and support. The full glee club will perform as well in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

In weekly rehearsals for the concert, cancer survivors and their supporters have found a community that understands their experiences, the uncertainty of returning to anything that was "normal" and the absolute necessity of doing so.

"Singing makes me feel wonderful, it energizes me," said Gloria De La Cruz, a chorus member from Naperville diagnosed with two cancers in the past seven months. "When I leave practice on Saturdays, it just seems like my day goes much better. There's less pain. I'm grateful for the opportunity to sing along with this group."

De La Cruz and four fellow chorus members shared their experiences with us, citing lyrics and passages that carried them through treatment and bring them together at rehearsal.

Here are their stories in their own words:

Gloria De La Cruz, Naperville

Gloria De La Cruz has been diagnosed with and treated for two rare and unrelated cancers, including one that took her left eye. Though in chemo treatments, she sings with Voices of Hope. "Singing, and music in general, has always had a very positive effect on me. Singing makes me feel wonderful, it energizes me," she said. "When I leave practice on Saturdays, it just seems like my day goes much better. There's less pain. I'm grateful for the opportunity to sing along with this group." Read Gloria's story.

Kristine Johnson, Lombard

"It happened again. Every time we sing the song 'I'll Stand by You' during our weekly Voices of Hope rehearsals, tears well up in my eyes," says Kristine Johnson of Lombard, a member of the Voices of Hope chorus. "I try not to let the drops of emotion fall on my music, but a few have spilled out on this song; I can see the warped spots on the pages. I'm not alone with this. I've heard fellow singers say, 'If I could only get through this song without crying.'" Read Kristine's story.

Jennifer Jones, Downers Grove

Diagnosed and treated last year for breast cancer, Jennifer Jones of Downers Grove is gradually taking back control of her life -- including singing with the Naperville Men's Glee Club's Voice of Hope chorus. Read Jennifer's story.

Bette Weaver, Aurora

Twenty-five years ago, Bette Weaver's daughter survived a brain tumor. A decade ago, the Aurora woman herself defeated breast cancer. And last year, Weaver's husband got the better of colon cancer. Music comforted him during his treatment, and now Weaver finds strength in singing with Voices of Hope. Read Bette's story.

Larry Zabinski, North Aurora

Larry Zabinski of North Aurora will be singing this weekend to honor those who have battled and still are battling cancer. People like his mother-in-law and his wife's grandfather. And people like Larry himself. Read Larry's story.

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