September 24, 2010

Family's musical monologue to raise breast cancer awareness

Timothy, Esther and Tamara Albrecht

When Music Instructor Tamara Albrecht began losing her dark chestnut hair to breast cancer earlier this year, she offered it to the birds for a tidy nest. One day, while brushing out the remaining strands in her pajamas, she belted out a variation of “My Favorite Things.”  

“Morphine on Monday and Vicodin on Tuesday. Lots of Ibuprofen when pain’s goin’ crazy. Hugs from my friends and wigs are the new trend. These are a few of my favorite things.” 

Now in remission, Albrecht is taking her talents – and her story – to Cannon Chapel on Oct. 3 as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life, “Sharing the Journey” is part monologue, part musical and entirely a family affair.

Albrecht’s daughter and Emory College junior, Esther, will act out scenes from her mother’s experience from diagnosis to survival.

Albrecht’s husband, music professor Timothy Albrecht, will accompany the duo on organ and piano. Attendees are encouraged to make a donation to benefit the Winship Cancer Institute’s Patient Assistance Fund.

“Sharing the Journey” will be performed at Cannon Chapel on Oct. 3 at 2 p.m.

“This type of fundraising is essential to our research efforts and will help us open more clinical trials and leverage national grant money,” says Ruth O’Regan, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology and director of the Emory Breast Center at the Winship Institute.

Emory Healthcare sees 900 new patients a year for breast cancer, one of the most common causes of cancer among women.

Albrecht’s narrative, previously performed at three fundraising events outside of Emory, was inspired by her regular “Big C” e-mail blasts to a network of 100 friends and family. A talented organist, she included upbeat music lyrics to help her cope, such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when she learned she needed a mastectomy, and “Yellow Submarine” when she emerged from a drug-induced haze after surgery.

“Everything I do in life is related to music,” she says. “It helped put me in a different place.”

“It is a hopeful program about an intimate experience that is also very public,” says Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the Chapel and Religious Life, who will be narrating the hour-long performance. Audience members will be invited to share the names of those they have lost to breast cancer to be honored in a special prayer.

“We’re not alone in the world,” says Albrecht, who still refers to the dimpling she discovered on her left breast as “God’s thumbprint.” “My journey became everybody’s journey and I took it on.” 

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