Bernard Traynor: Irish musician who beat cancer twice and lost wife to disease releases emotional song
An Irish musician who beat cancer twice with the help of his late wife will release a song to raise funds for ovarian cancer research, the disease which took her life.
Dublin musician Bernard Traynor lost his wife to ovarian cancer in 2013 and will release a song which the couple wrote and recorded together to raise funds on World Ovarian Cancer Day on Friday.
The classical guitarist’s talented wife helped him beat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma twice before she herself was given a heartbreaking cancer diagnosis in 2010.
“In 1993 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Being diagnosed with cancer was a huge shock for me but luckily with Denise on my side I got through it.
“In 2007, my brother died suddenly, which was a huge shock for me. The grief was hard to cope with. He had had a heart attack and his death really had an impact on me.
“Just one month later in July, I was re-diagnosed with cancer.
“This time I had to have a full bone marrow transplant but as always my wife Denise was there for me and we got through that difficult time together,” he said.
The couple first met when they were both students in Dublin’s College of Music and they instantly clicked.
“We met at the College of Music and hit it off straight away. We were engaged in 1988 and married the following year,” he said.
By 2010, the couple had gotten back to their normal life after Bernard’s recovery and were teaching music in Ferns Co. Wexford. Denise began to feel unwell and sought the advice of her local GP.
“In 2010, Denise began feeling unwell. She just wasn’t herself. She went to the GP who thought perhaps she was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or a Urinary Tract Infection, both quite manageable disorders.
“Unfortunately when the symptoms kept presenting, Denise had a scan to rule out anything more sinister. They found that she had Ovarian Cancer.
“Denise had a number of surgeries and doctors were confident that they had removed all of the cancer, but Denise underwent chemotherapy as a precaution.
“After she had been through chemotherapy, we really thought that cancer was behind us and we were looking forward to moving on with our lives.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and the couple discovered that Denise’s cancer had returned in August 2011.
“It was discovered that the cancer had come back and I suppose at that point were beginning to understand that this cancer was incurable.
“We were spending most of our time in St. James’ Hospital and flying up and down for appointments, both for Denise and also for the research work we were doing together,” said Bernard.
The beautiful classical singer and her husband had discovered that the cancer had travelled to the brain and although she went through radiotherapy, Denise tragically passed away in 2014.
Since her death, Bernard has become passionate about improved screening for ovarian cancer in Ireland.
"Right now, we just are trying to push for better screening in Ireland for this aggressive cancer. We need to speed up the diagnosis so we can save lives in Ireland as about 350 Irish women die from ovarian cancer each year," he said.
Following Bernard’s second cancer diagnosis, the couple began to write and record music together, which he says are some of his most precious memories.
“In 2008, we began to write and record music together and I suppose looking back, these are very precious memories for me.
“It was a time I will always remember.”
The musician, who once ran the Dublin School of Guitar and Music with Denise, will release a heartfelt song on Friday, the proceeds of which will go to cancer research in St James’ Hospital.
“The song we recorded together and which we are releasing on Ovarian Cancer Day is called Flowers from Heaven. Denise wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music and she sings on the track and I play the guitar.
“After Denise had died my friend in church Phillip Galligan said we should try and carry on Denise’s memory and mission in some small way and Declan Quinn from LCM promotions made this possible,” he said.
“Until March 31 the day she died, Denise was always putting other people first. Once, a doctor asked her if she had three wishes what would they be and she said: ‘Spend more time with Bernard, spend more time with Bernard, spend more time with Bernard’. That’s just what kind of person she was,” he said.
The song will be available to download on iTunes on May 8 and those looking to donate to Bernard’s cause can visit www.stjames.ie. You can also text "James" to 50300 to donate €4 to the cause.