Updates & Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Updated: Feb 20
I want to apologise for not writing in a while, I was instructed by my chiropractor to not look down, even slightly at the computer screen for long periods. I don't know if you remember but from the time I started Taxol Chemo, around the time of my last balcony concert on the 9th of May, I started suffering from terrible Vertigo, the room would spin and I would feel totally off balance especially when I looked up or lay or changed positions in my bed. I also had the most terrible neck and shoulder spasms, I was constantly in pain, even the base of my head hurt. I couldn't go for massages so I went to a very good chiropractor, he didn't manipulate me by clicking me into place, he worked on me very gently and used dry needling to relieve the tension coupled with Traumulin injections. it would be better for a few days but then the pain would be back, I was there every week!
I am telling you all this because another young warrior who is on Taxol (chemo treatment) at the moment contacted me and asked me "is this normal side effect?" I realised at that moment that I was no longer in pain, the aches and pains and Vertigo had to have been a side effect of the Taxol Chemo. I just thought it was worth sharing as after 4 months of spinning, I never thought my Vertigo would ever go away!
I am happy to report that I am Vertigo and pain free!
September was delightful! it was my birthday month! What a privilege it was to turn 36 to be alive and to have survived breast cancer this year!
I remember how depressed I got on my 30th Birthday, I was conditioned to believe that by 30 I was supposed to have it all figured out. I was supposed to have achieved more of my career goals, I should have had a life partner by now and have tied the knot. Well, that is at least the formula that I was socially indoctrinated to believe.
We often get down around the time of our birthdays, when we're young we strive to meet the milestones that society expects of us at a certain age and if we aren't where we had envisioned ourselves to be, whether it be in our careers, love lives, financial status or the fantasy we had in our minds of what our lives should have looked like, say at "30" we tend to feel like utter failures and think that everyone has somehow got it figured out and we have been left behind. The truth is, no one has it figured out and everyone is probably experiencing the exact same thing.
This year I was free from all that crap, I am dancing to the beat of my own drum and I am happier than I've ever been.
I had a lovely gathering with my friends at the OZCF Market and we all got on stage and I learnt the Jerusalema Challenge, taught to me by my brilliant friend Caely.
We went down to the Grand Beach and as soon as the song came on again we got everyone up and dancing again! On Sunday my brother treated me to a fine dining experience at La Colombe and it really was the most stunning weekend.
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and wow was I busy!
I was so grateful to have the opportunities to raise awareness. I had a featured article in Glamour Magazine and was part of the Strawberry Lips Liqueur #PinkDiaries Campaign.
"Year-on-year, the highlight on the calendar is the Strawberry Lips Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign to raise funds for PinkDrive, an organisation that believes early detection of breast cancer will help prolong life. “2020 threw us a curve-ball, but our Breast Cancer Awareness campaign seemed more vital than ever,” says Strawberry Lips marketing manager, Vanessa Nel. “With everyone more aware of their humanity and mortality, we focused on what was important – sharing breast cancer stories.” And so, the Strawberry Lips #PinkDiaries movement was born.
Strawberry Lips rallied 14 local celebrities, influencers and breast cancer survivors and had them share their stories of how their lives have been affected by breast cancer, encouraging other women to have their regular self-examinations and check-ups".
This shoot was on August 5 for the Glamour Magazine Breast Cancer Awareness issue in October. I shaved my head one last time after my chemo finished at the end of July.
The photographer Valentina Nicol was delightful to work with and it was the first shoot where I actually had fun and wasn't judging myself.
I was determined to release a song for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a song of hope to all my warriors out there. I collaborated with a few writers but nothing hit me in my soul so I went back to the catalogue of songs I had written many years ago and found this song I wrote when I was 16! 20 years ago! Can you believe it? I couldn't believe how relevant the lyrics were to what I had been through this year and I knew this was THE song! I recorded it at The Nuthouse Studio, produced by the talented musician and composer Andrew Ford who did all the arrangements and wrote out some beautiful string parts for the 2 Violinist and Viola session players.
The song's message is this:
I want all my warriors and anyone who is going through a tough time right now to know that
"You will get through this, there is a light at the end of the tunnel
Tomorrow is a new day, just hold on, have faith and believe.
Hold on Is available for download and streaming
I had many radio interviews during the month of October and my song debuted on Brandon Leighs Radio show on KFM. I was so excited to share this song with the world. I never released any of my music before as I was so highly critical of myself but I had let go of that crap and I finally was putting myself out there.
I have had people from all over write to me to tell me how much the song has given them hope and gotten them through their dark days. That is the winning prize as an artist if your music can move someone emotionally and positively impact them. If I can give a little hope to someone in need through my music, well that is the ultimate blessing.
I was also on the Expresso Afternoon Show speaking about my breast cancer journey to raise awareness and performed one of my favourite songs, When You Believe by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey
Click on the photo to Listen to my SMILE 90.4 Interview
In conversation with The Sea Point Balcony Singer - Danielle Bitton
Guest: Danielle Bitto, International musician & breast cancer survivor
Host: Nicola Bruns
THE ONLINE CONCERT
I wanted to put on a concert for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, sharing my journey intertwined with some of my favourite songs to raise awareness and to give a portion of the nights proceeds to Reach For Recovery. I was offered the online streaming studio stage at Sound Select in exchange for marketing their new space and was really excited as it had LED screens and looked great visually and I was so grateful. I had dealt with the guy running it and told him I would need to come in on Monday and Tuesday for a technical run to check that the sounds and visuals were in order as I wanted to film by Wednesday.
You have to pre record online streaming events these days as it is too risky to risk a bad connection line with buffering and delays.
I got there on Monday and for most of the day they (3 sound technicians) couldn't get my EQ right on my mic, meaning they were losing the clarity and essence to my voice. It wasn't until I went to the mixing desk and turned up the mid and high frequencies did I start to sound like me. My mother was there and said it sounded shocking and I should just record it at home on my system as it sounded better.
They also didn't have the program to set up the screens there which they said they had to collect. I went back Tuesday and it was another shit show, the staff were apathetic, the screens were still not there and I started to get really anxious as I hadn't even had a full run of my show yet.
I had worked with an incredible short film with DP Ryan Van Geems and he offered to come shoot the concert with his roaming camera, Sound Select Studio were providing 2 still cameras.
The day of the shoot, I got there and it was so disorganised again, I had to sit with one technician for an hour to go through all the visuals for the screens , then he just got up and left and I had to do it all over again with the other one. Then the main guy said to me " we have to leave in an hour, we have a job to get to" I mean didn't he think of mentioning this before.
I was now at my wits end and lost it. I am used to working with a certain level of professionalism and this was the most apathetic bunch I had ever encountered, their attitude was so shocking I can't even tell you. I don't even think it would have made a difference if I had paid them for their services as I had never worked with such unprofessional individuals. When I finally gave them a piece of my mind after trying to be patient and holding in my frustration for 3 days, I was told by the owner I had an attitude problem and should consider myself lucky for even getting anything at all.
I was absolutely appalled. I have a standard of professionalism, a very strong work ethic especially after hustling in NYC and I couldn't believe the manner in which the owner of the store and his employees conducted themselves.
I was so highly strung and then had to record my show. They were so rude, they were talking during the filming behind the sound desk.
Anyway I got through it, even though I knew it wasn't my best, but it was what it was.
They kept me waiting for the footage for the whole of Thursday which I finally got to my videographer who was going to edit it for me combining the 3 different camera angles.
On Friday morning he called me and told me that he couldn't use any of the footage, that the main stationary camera, the one I engage with the most, well, it didn't record the first 20 minutes and that they (the studio staff) had managed to record the camera setting displays and grid lines on the actual footage? Any videographer would ask " How is that even possible?" My concert had to be up on Saturday, I was in a complete state! I called a few different online streaming studios but they were all were booked up. I was so stressed I was shaking, I started crying hysterically, thinking there was no way I could pull this off and maybe I should just cancel or postpone the show but then all the hard work I had put in to promoting it and pushing ticket sales would be lost as I would have to offer refunds.
I took a tranquilizer as I had a DJ Gig at 7pm at Grand West Casino. I was emotionally drained, it was the most stressful week ever. I went to plug in my mic and set up the sound for when I got home but my mic had packed up and wasn't working! " Are u freaking kidding me?" I mean everything that could have gone wrong did! I called a DJ friend of mine, Dino, who kindly offered me his mic and said he would come and help me with the recording after my gig.
My brother drove me to my gig and got me a stiff drink ( I don't usually drink but I needed it after the day I had) I started to feel a bit better, the show had to go on.
I was very lucky to have my darling friend, Nicole by my side all week and through Friday, she truly was an angel. I came home and she had cleaned up my apartment after rearranging the furniture to create the film set. I came home at 10 pm to a candlelit sanctuary that Nicole created with beautiful music and tranquil vibes, she had hung my dress up on my ring light and my heart was so full of gratitude. I got ready and so did my brother, the videographer. Dino was on sound and we started filming the whole show at 12 and finished at 1am. My performance was like night and day compared to the one at Sound Select Studio! It was so much better because I was surrounded by positive energy and the ones I loved. Nicole said to me " You see it was meant to work out this way, everything happens for a reason"
We had 2 cameras filming so I cut between cameras and edited the footage through the night until 16:30 pm the next day, I ate one meal and didn't even drink anything, I was in a hyper focused zone and on a deadline. The concert took an hour to upload and I was praying that Imovie wouldn't bomb out on me as the wheel of death circled on my Macbook. By 18:30pm it was live and ready for streaming at 8pm
I was simultaneously exhausted and euphoric, I had done it! I persevered and felt a real sense of accomplishment.
Honestly I can't wait to just go back to being able to do live shows, It really is a lot of behind the scenes and technical work to put on a live stream. It was a success and I learnt some very valuable lessons,
1. There are no free lunches in life
2. Not everyone has the same work ethic or moral compass as you do.
3. Ultimately the only person you can rely on is yourself.
4. Everything happens for a reason even though we can't see it at the time.
5. If you believe it, you can achieve it
If you missed it, I will be putting on a special online streaming Christmas concert. Yes I am the Jew that loves her Christmas Carols, it's not a joke I really do :) so watch this space :)
The following week, I was a part of another amazing KFM concert produced by Brandon Leigh on the 7th of Nov called Music & Lights with a stunning cast. It was such a wonderful experience collaborating with different artists again like Bev Scott Brown, Lyndle Kearns, China, Don Vino Prins, Back Pocket and the GKD Band.
It was a crazy month and at the beginning of November I was asked by Ally Nicole B if I would like to do a shoot with her. I jumped at the opportunity as I love her work. It was the most incredible day working with her, she is so creative and we played around and shot a few different looks but the money shot of the day was the image below.
Ally had a vision for this photo and so did I and together we sat down and came up with the words that she wrote on my chest with black eyeliner.
I wanted to share my journey visually, to bare my scars and show women out there that it is possible to smile after battling breast cancer.
Battling breast cancer this year has been the most life changing journey. I was always striving for perfection in my appearance but after losing my breasts and my hair, in a way it set me free. It taught me that outer beauty does not define who I am. I have learnt to love myself unconditionally in a whole new way embracing my imperfections, my scars and sharing my vulnerability for that is what connects us all.
Robyn from "The Cape Robyn" wrote a beautiful article on my journey, this photo and how I joined forces with Morton & Partners Radiologists for a special giveaway at the beginning of November, offering 4 lucky women a chance to win a hamper with a free Mammogram.
The words on her chest read like a poem and is an affirmation and expression of gratitude that she has arrived at this point, elevated her and enabled her to share song and light through her now famed lockdown balcony concerts in Sea Point, which were streamed live on her Facebook page. The balcony concerts are archived on YouTube. The Ally Nicole photo is an image which speaks to me of recognition of time; recognition of reality (cancer, double mastectomy) but it is also a very affirming image because of Bitton’s stance, her direct gaze at the viewer; the words that she has chosen to write on her skin. It says –“look here I am. This is me now but my journey continues. I am fearless and watch out for what comes next.” There is a sense of presence and ownership of those scars but also creativity and the sense that she is preparing her body and mind for its next transition. Physically she went through loss of her breasts and has had to deal with that but in doing so she has been on an emotional journey which has been hugely empowering in terms of acceptance, self-love and awareness. As a performing artist, her former existence hinged on how she ‘looked’ but her journey with breast cancer has shifted her perspective – and brought her to a place where her mind and body is in harmony. The scars and ruptures are part of who she is as a person. - The Cape Robyn
Mammograms are not cheap, especially if you don't have medical aid but even if you do you are only allocated one every 2 years, which in my opinion should be every year.
Only women who are younger and are higher risk, like myself being BRCA2 positive, need to go for a mammogram earlier than the suggested age.
I honestly wished I had the means to send every one of the women who entered the giveaway competition for a mammogram. It was so hard choosing a winner as every woman's story was so emotional and hit me to me core. We did chose 4 lucky winners that we felt needed it the most and it was such an incredible initiative on part of Morton & Partners Radiologists.
Imagine a healthcare system where as a woman on your birthday you received a free Mammogram. How incredible would that be? If you think about it, it is the most wonderful gift you could give to yourself to ensure your health so that you can live to see many more birthdays.
I sang at a boutique hotel opening that was very busy and it felt strange to sing in front of an audience again but also wonderful as I could see how engaged my audience was instead of me just trying to reach them virtually through the lense of my camera. I have been getting a few DJ gigs here and there on the strip in Camps Bay at Tigers Milk and La Parada in the Waterfront. It's been so hard for us entertainers with Covid that it felt great to be out and about and feeding off a live vibe. At my first gig back in Camps Bay I got a massive applause after my set, it was amazing and felt really good to be back behind the decks bringing people together through music.
I put on a bikini and went to the beach for the first time since I had my surgery and off I went rocking those expanders. From being a sunworshipper for most of my life, (literally tanning for hours) I am now so scared of the sun as BRCA2 is also high risk for getting Melanomas, skin cancer. I will now be spray tanning and using those hours I would have spent lying in the sun more productively.
I am nearly there, nearly at the finish line... the next step on my journey is my reconstruction surgery mid November.