Lauren Flaherty knows that she was lucky. Her cancer diagnosis was unexpected, and obviously difficult, but things moved fast.
“My experience was accelerated; within 31 days I went from diagnosis to surgery,” she said. “But when I was in recovery, which mentally is almost harder in some ways, I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to sing again.”
Flaherty can sing again,thanks to the staff at Massachusetts General Hospital and former teachers and vocal coaches at the New England Conservatory, where she got her Master's degree.
Now, Flaherty is working on a way to give back while also chronicling her experience through an album she’s funding with Indiegogo.
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Flaherty, a singer-songwriter born and bred in Boston, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March 2016. The thyroid gland overlaps with vocal cords, so when Flaherty had her surgery, she knew her vocal cords could be affected.
“This is the exact surgery as a singer you do not want to have,” Flaherty said.
She credits, in part, the experienced staff at MGH — one of whom consulted Grammy-award winning star Adele — with everything turning out OK.
“I really feel like Boston helped me get better, like the level of surgeon and doctors I had access to at MGH was astounding… my voice coach dropped everything to meet with me,” she said. “I don't feel like I did this on my own, my community helped me very much.”
The Boston community is helping her once again by donating to her Indiegogo campaign, which she launched in early December. She kept her goal safe, she admitted, at $1,000, but was still blown away when she surpassed it after the first week.
“It made me feel that hopefully the work itself is resonating with people,” Flaherty said. “Part of the cause, the experiences with cancer that have fueled the record, are tapping into something.”
With about a month left on the online campaign, Flaherty is planning how to cover her costs of recording (which is taken care of with the amount raised so far) and to donate any money left over, along with a portion of the proceeds, to the American Cancer Society.
The album willhave 15 songs, organized in three parts—“Life, Death and Rebirth” — which follow her experiences before her diagnosis, during her battle with cancer and then through recovery.
While a lot of songwriting is personal, Flaherty said that musicians like herself most often try to make their work universal with general experiences, like a breakup. Flaherty knew she was going through something larger than that, but also knew that, unfortunately, cancer is something more and more people have experienced.
“I really wanted to push myself,” she said. “It someone is going through a hard time, they can put this album on and feel something — hopefully, comfort and inspiration.”