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Belfast musician Alex Scott uses cancer survival to drive music

Singer Alex Scott
Singer Alex Scott

By James Gant

A Belfast-born singer-songwriter who had cancer three times and also suffered a heart attack has penned a song about his health troubles for charity.

Alex Scott (63) said The Big C will feature on his new album Face The Music, which will be released early in the new year. All proceeds from the song will go to Cancer Research UK.

It was inspired by his battles with the disease.

The song reinforces the need to be positive, and to deal with cancer in a pragmatic way.

Alex grew up on University Avenue in Belfast in the Sixties and Seventies, but moved to London in 1975 due to the flagging local music scene.

He settled down quickly and was married within the year at the age of 19 to an 18-year-old Englishwoman called Julia.

By this point the Troubles had hit his family hard.

His younger brother was in the Abercorn restaurant when it was bombed by the IRA on March 4, 1972. He was five at the time and was with their older brother, who was then 20. Both survived.

A decade later, on August 2, 1982, the same older brother, who was in the UDR, had his car booby-trapped.

He lost an arm and leg in the explosion.

Mr Scott's health troubles began in 1989 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.

On telling his children Amanda and Daniel, he recalled: "I think they were six and eight at the time, and I came home and told them that I had it, that there was a 50/50 chance, and I had a maximum of two years to live."

He added: "They saw me come back from the first one and they thought I was invincible, and they still like my positive approach because I taught them to be positive and I'm a big believer in this.

"It gave me a hell of a shock - I just drove around in my car that day just bewildered.

"I remember a song came on the radio, (Billy Ocean's) When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going, and I thought: 'That's me'."

After a biopsy on a growth on his neck, he had six months of chemotherapy and a few more months of radiotherapy.

In the year he was having his treatment, he said he lost his business, his job, nearly lost his house and had to juggle bringing up two young children as well.

So aggressive was the illness, that Mr Scott says: "I was the only one who survived out of all the people who were being treated at the same time in the Watford hospital."

To distract himself, he reminisced about his former life in Belfast and wrote the musical Crossing The Line, about growing up during the Troubles.

He explained: "It was very positive but it was reflective of the stuff that went on still."

After he had got back on his feet and into the business world in 2000, he suffered his second major setback, the heart attack.

He had to have a stent put in, but recovered from this too.

Undeterred, he was back at work and set up a consultancy business, but decided to slow down and focus on his music.

Then he received another setback in 2014, this time with basal cell carcinoma - a form of skin cancer. Fortunately, this was benign, but he said: "I was very pragmatic about it, but the second time really frightened me until I got the results.

"It really, really frightened me what with it being on the site of the original (Hodgkin's) disease, which was really very aggressive."

Then a year later came more bad news.

This time cancer cells had migrated south, to his prostate.

Mr Scott, who was treated at Lister Hospital, Stevenage, recalled: "Unfortunately, the cancer had gone outside the prostate, so I had to have the prostate gland removed and I thought that was it, but they told me it had stayed a little bit, so I had lots of radiation to deal with that.

"I don't know why I've had it so rough, really.

"But now I'm in my 60s, I sort of just shrug my shoulders and say here we go again.

"I don't know why, I've sort of just learnt to deal with it and stand up."

Now living in St Albans, Hertfordshire, Mr Scott is in fine form health-wise.

He has made 10 trips to Belfast recently to record three albums in the Start Again studio at the Oh Yeah Music Centre.

He is hoping to raise £10,000 for Cancer Research UK with The Big C, as well as release his new album in March.

"The song is about standing up to it and trying to face it head on and particularly with some of the lyrics being centred around the fact that I'm older and that if I can get to three score and ten, then it's nothing short of a miracle."

He added: "My whole approach is just be positive about it, and whenever you're knocked down you've just got to get back up again."

Alex's funraising page can be found at fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/alex-scott-music

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