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Joseph Neale’s voice is clear and soulful. It’s hard to believe that he had two-thirds of his right lung removed after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Now 26, the talented singer-songwriter was just 20 years old when he began complaining of a dry, persistent cough. Though an initial chest X-ray suggested pneumonia, a subsequent CT scan indicated he had a tumour. Here, five compelling lessons Joseph learned about living through lung cancer.
Lung Cancer has the stigma of being the smoker’s disease. In fact, as Neale learned the hard way, 15 percent of lung cancers have nothing at all to do with smoking. It turned out that he had a rare genetic mutation similar to his cousin, (Haydain Neale of Juno Award-winning band Jacksoul) that increased the susceptibility of the disease.
The tumor was just 3cm in size but its location was bad, right in his bronchus. He thought he would not be able to sing anymore and thought maybe he would just live with the cancer until he died. It was a bleak perspective, but it didn’t take long before Joseph’s positivity reemerged. “I started reading, anything to do with positive mindsets and success — it kept me on track.” Joseph’s biggest inspiration though, came with the birth of his daughter who irrevocably changed Joseph’s outlook.
Surgery was the best option for an otherwise healthy, young patient like Neale but he had legitimate concerns about how it would affect his voice. Fortunately, the surgery was successful. He actually began to sing in the recovery room until brothers, Jared and David, concerned for his recovery, yelled at him to stop.
Cancer-free, Neale is back full time as a recording artist and promoting his work although he must deal with the side-effects of a raspier voice and shortness of breath. “Sometimes I feel the difference and the emptiness on one side, and it’s different to cope with, but I’ve been doing everything regularly, playing basketball, running, working out and singing, holding my notes”.
Lung Cancer receives only a very small portion of cancer-related research dollars. Now Neale is using his musical talent and personal story to get the message out there. As an advocate for Lung Cancer Awareness, he is helping to deliver the message to the young generation that the disease can affect anyone no matter how old.