Opera star Stands up to Cancer

Opera star monica mcghee

Monica McGhee is urging Scots to join the fight against cancer after almost losing her voice to the condition

15th October 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Inspirational opera star Monica McGhee who beat cancer aged 28 stunned passengers at Glasgow Central Station by bursting in to song to save lives.

Scots soprano Monica brought Scotland’s busiest station to a standstill earlier this month with an impromptu performance. She and concert pianist Jose Javier Ucendo Malo of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland took over the station’s piano to wow the crowds.

The 30-minute surprise show was set up to launch Stand Up To Cancer, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4. Monica hit the sky-high notes during a breathtaking rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro from a Puccini opera as well as best loved arias Un Bel di Vedremo from Madame Butterfly and Song to the Moon from Dvorak’s Rusalka.

In Scotland, around four people every hour are diagnosed with cancer. Stand Up To Cancer unites scientists, celebrities and communities across the UK, raising money to take developments from the lab and transform them, quickly, into brand new tests and treatments. The campaign is supported by a host of stars including Davina McCall, Alan Carr, Maya Jama, Greg Rutherford and Joe Lycett.

Monica, from Motherwell, Lanarkshire who found international fame as part of the operatic group Amore and has just returned from a tour of Japan with the Royal Opera House knows exactly how vital life-saving research is. She recalls vividly her fears on 15 February 2017 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after discovering a lump on her neck. Just seven days later, Monica who was working in London at the time had surgery at Lewisham Hospital to remove the tumour.

Monica, now 31, said: “When I got cancer I risked losing the one thing in my life I relied on more than anything else, my voice.

“My first thought was am I going to die but then it was am I going to lose my voice? 

“The tumour was growing close to the lower laryngeal nerve and I feared I’d never be able to sing again. The very first thing I wanted to know when I woke up from the operation was whether my vocal cords had been damaged in any way. When the surgeon gave me a thumbs up to say the operation had been a complete success I cried with relief.”

Monica’s parents Maureen and Philip McGhee drove her home to Scotland to recover. Rock solid support from her sisters, Claire, 33, and Laura, 28, also helped Monica slowly build back her strength. No further treatment was needed and it was an emotional moment on August 22 2017 when Monica stepped back on stage to star in the lead role of Leila with Opera Bohemia as part of the Pearl Fishers three act opera in Edinburgh.

Monica said: “Just six months earlier I’d had major surgery on my neck fearing I may never sing again.

“Cancer had threatened to take away forever so much of what I loved and lived for. Now I was singing on stage in Scotland with my wonderful family who had supported me every step of the way in the audience. I’ll never forget that night.”

Now Monica is sharing her remarkable story to boost awareness and inspire Scots to raise some cancer-crushing cash for Stand Up To Cancer.  She has a hospital check up every year but remains in remission. And last year Monica raised funds for St Andrews Hospice in Motherwell with an evening of operatic highlights.

Monica said: “I am forever grateful I escaped cancer relatively unscathed compared to the hell some people have to go through.

“Resilience, a sense of humour, good people around me and the amazing skills of the NHS got me through. Although cancer threatened to derail everything there was a way back. Now I’m proud to reach out and help other people going through cancer. I’m proud to Stand Up To Cancer.”

Since it started in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised over £62 million to fund 52 pioneering clinical trials and research projects.

Right now, scientists are developing new tactics to boost the immune system’s ability to take out cancer cells. They’re creating cutting-edge technologies to detect cancer cells in the blood, which could transform the way cancer is diagnosed. And they’re using MRI to turn radiotherapy into a more precise, personalised and powerful anti-cancer weapon.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman for Scotland, said: “By supporting Stand Up To Cancer, people will be helping to fund game-changing research, to make a huge difference to cancer patients and their families.

“There’s been amazing progress in the past few decades and more people are surviving cancer than ever before. But one in two of us in the UK will develop the disease at some point in our lifetime. That’s why we need as many people as possible to get involved. There’s power in numbers and if we all work together we can defeat anything, even cancer.

“We’d like to thank Monica, Jose and all the Network Rail staff at Glasgow Central Station for their colourful support.”

People can get involved in Stand Up To Cancer’s fortnight of fundraising from 11 to 25 October by requesting a free fundraising pack. They can choose to fundraise in their own way or pick from a host of fun-filled ideas, like the unpredictable dress up challenge, which will help to speed up life-saving research.

And for those who want to show their support for the campaign in style, a fun range of clothing and accessories is also available online.

This autumn will also see a dedicated season of Stand Up To Cancer programming on Channel 4.