Mosaic / October 20, 2010

Lane directs choir while battling illness

“I am too strong for it,” Laura Lane, Director of Choral Activities said thinking about her initial reactions to the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Despite being on a partial leave, Lane’s days are still filled with organizing and leading both the Nova Singers and the Knox College Choir.

“I am used to my mind being always active,” Lane said, who normally teaches a few classes and singing lessons. “I could have taken a full leave, but I love the choir and I enjoy every rehearsal.”

Lane has used yoga, walking and reading to keep her mind active. She has also remained busy getting ready for the Bach Mass in B Minor with the Nova Singers.

“It has helped me keep going,” Lane said. “Hearing, working and planning one of the best concerts kept my mind busy.”

Two days prior to the March 26 Home Tour Concert, Lane was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer. Despite the bad news, Lane did not cancel the concert.

“You can’t predict what life throws at you,” Lane said.

The Knox College Choir didn’t know of the cancer until April 17.

“She maintained her exuberant, happy manner [before letting us know],” Post Baccalaureate Pier Debes said.

The spring concert was canceled due to a conflict with her April 26 surgery. A month later, Lane started chemotherapy.

“It feels like a truck has just run over you,” Lane said.

“She was visibly weakened after the first chemotherapy session,” Debes said, “but she refused to let it get in her way.”

She has lost her hair due to chemotherapy, but her glowing personality remains. She finished her chemotherapy Sept. 9 but is still going through radiation treatment and taking Herceptin.

“At the end of rehearsal, people were crying,” Debes said about the last rehearsal of the year. Members of the choir knew the spring concert was canceled, but they still came to the rehearsals.

With her joy for singing and conducting, Lane kept the rehearsals going despite the concert cancellation.

“The choir has been phenomenal,” Lane said. They visited Lane’s home multiple times, singing songs, bringing food and keeping her spirits high. During the end-of-the-year choir picnic, the choir members acted like nothing was different, playing games in the backyard and singing.

Lane has kept a journal on the Caring Bridge website throughout her fight. This has allowed her to express her emotions, as well as keep the support group of her friends and family informed. The 5,124 different visitors that have viewed her journals have provided a great emotional boost.

“I’ve had a few days when I was down,” Lane said, but the words of encouragement left on her journal as well as texts and other messages from friends and choir members lifted her up. “I don’t think I could have done it without the Knox students and community.”

“Everyone wanted to know what was going on,” Lane said, giving reasons to start the journal. “I feel like it is a responsibility to be open.”

Some people think it is a bad thing to be open, but Lane believes it allows for more support. Being open teaches others about strength and can provide moral support for those with similar struggles.

“I am very lucky to be at Knox,” Lane said. Many faculty members provided dinner for Lane and her family for weeks while she recovered and was going through the worst part of chemotherapy.

“I have done it for others, but I never received it myself,” Lane said. “It was great.”

For winter and spring terms Lane will be taking a sabbatical. The sabbatical was planned before her cancer diagnosis.

“I am not giving up the Bach [B Minor Mass],” said Lane. The Mass will be performed Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Orpheum Theatre with an expanded Nova Singers group including many Knox students. Lane, who has sung and conducted the piece only once in her life, feels that it is monumental for any singer and arguably the best Bach Mass.

“It was very surprising, but she wasn’t going to let it get in the way of her love of conducting and the choir,” Debes said.

Laura Lane invites anyone who is interested to visit her journal at

John Williams

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