Hello There, my name is Ray Coates and I am a singer/songwriter (a driving instructor as well), a throat cancer survivor and a Father of 5 children.
In 2008 (in a period of normal family life with the hullabaloo of 5 children and when I was married at the time), I was shaving one day and noticed a lump on the right side of my neck. I'd experienced a slight loss of voice at times, leading up to this, and several colds.
I decided to visit my GP. This is when my cancer journey truly began! I was very fortunate that my GP had previously worked in ENT oncology. She asked me a question that I will never forget, after examining my neck and mouth, 'what do you think it is?' I was a little perplexed that my GP would ask me! However, I replied - 'I suppose you think the worst'. I knew something deep in me was not as it should be, I had a sense of the cancer in me (I'll return to this thought later). My GP replied with the confirming words: 'well we cannot rule out cancer'! I then began a process of investigation (including pandoscopic and endoscopic investigations). This led to a consultation where myself and my wife at the time were told that I had a malignant tumour in my tonsil and that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck! I asked the consultant, what would be the prognosis if I refused treatment (by this point I had prepared myself for what was to come, I knew I had cancer before I was told. MY body told me). The consultant said, if I refused treatment, I would likely die in a few 'months'. With 5 children, I knew I had to take the 4 hour surgery and 6 weeks (30 sessions in total) of radiotherapy on offer! The treatment was gruelling! 'Belt & braces' as one Macmillan nurse put it! I lost weight, due to not eating. I lost my voice, virtually completely, for close to a year. I lost my sense of taste for several months and I had severe blisters and bleeding around my neck and in the mouth, from the radiation. During that time I think I lost far more! I think I became disconnected and isolated mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Recovery was over a LONG period of time and sadly a year or so after my cancer my then wife and I separated and were eventually divorced. Before this I also discovered my Dad, who left home when I was 5 years old, had died. I never saw him in about 38 years! To say this time and the years after were tough is an understatement! I felt broken! However, there is a light at the end of this darkness, and there often is!
I was very fortunate to be diagnosed early. This led to early identification and intervention. I allowed my voice to be dampened at times emotionally and spiritually for reasons I would not like to divulge here.
I have learnt the Voice is a precious gift, taste is a precious gift, words can harm or heal! Therefore, in conclusion, I choose to use my voice for the greater good, through my trials I have earned that right (and it is a basic human right). A YEAR with virtually NO voice due to throat cancer treatment, is a LONG time! I guess for other reasons you could say it was longer! I want to use the voice I have for greater good! Everyone should be heard, no one should be ignored! I will continue to use my voice to make sure NO fellow human being feels disconnected, isolated and voiceless in any way at all!
Ray is currently working on several projects. Including the release of a charity Christmas single 'The Voice Within' for the homeless organisation Shelter. The single was written by Ray as a dedication to all those who feel disconnected, isolated and voiceless (whether by cancer or any other experience). It is performed by Zoe Evans, who has experienced facing homelessness herself. Additionally, Ray was commissioned by Charles Mattocks (executive producer and creator of upcoming TV show 'Eight days') to write a song. The award winning film maker, and best selling author, Charles, asked Ray to write, sing and record a song for his programme 'Eight Days', Charles Cancer docu series to be aired next January 2020 on the Discovery channel in the USA. Ray will be releasing 'Your Journey' as a single in the New Year.