You’d be forgiven for thinking Chloe Drew-Batty, 16,’s song was your usual teenage dread. But listen to the lyrics and something much darker lurks beneath the melody.
“I still hope this is all just a dream and I still hope someone hears my screams,” Chloe wrote two years ago, aged 16.
Words framed by locked up isolated teen? Even worse, these are lyrics from a kid undergoing his second round of grueling chemotherapy and struggling with a double whammy of Covid isolation and cancer.
Now, two years later and with the release of her first album, Chloe, 18, is on the cusp of fame. She believes cancer has given her the confidence to sing out loud.
“Before I got sick, I was kind of shy and shy,” she says. “I had written songs, but I was too scared to show anyone my lyrics and I was too scared to sing out loud. It sounds like a cliché, but my diagnosis made me realize that life really is too short. My self-confidence has skyrocketed.’
Things were different in March 2020 when Chloe was locked up with her music teacher parents, Fran and William. She says: “I was studying for my GCSEs and a month into lockdown I discovered a lump on my collarbone. “I went to the GP and was told it was probably nothing. I tested positive for glandular fever so I thought that was it.
In June, with the lump still visible, Chloe was referred for a biopsy.
“We didn’t hear anything for two weeks and I remember my parents calling the hospital,” she says.
One nurse said, “If you haven’t heard anything, it’s probably fine.” When we came back at the end of the two weeks, I walked into the room with my mom and dad and thought, “This is probably a cyst.” It wasn’t, and it was a very surreal experience to learn that I have cancer. I was diagnosed with stage 2 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but I didn’t know what that meant.
The Teenage Cancer Trust gave Chloe some much-needed reassurance after her mother showed her the site. “There were stories of other young people who had cancer and got better and I can’t stress enough how important that was to me.”
It was “disheartening” to be at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in August for the start of four rounds of chemotherapy. “It’s such a big place and overwhelming,” recalls Chloe, who lives in Bungay, Suffolk. But here, too, the Teenage Cancer Trust provided a refuge.
“You could meet other young people, which is really helpful when you’re being pumped full of toxic chemicals. Yes, it was scary to see the others in the ward without them, but I didn’t run away scared.’
Chloe returned to school physically in March 2021 and her treatment ended in May with three weeks of radiation therapy. A clear scan a few months later led to the all-clear in August. “I was doing my summer job when I got the call to chop onions and I had tears in my eyes. But when I got home I burst into tears,” she says.
Chloe studies at BIMM Music Institute in Brighton and her band Pearll has released their first album – the girl too shy to perform now sings. And when the Teenage Cancer Trust performs its concert at the Royal Albert Hall this month, Chloe goes backstage in hopes of meeting the charity supporter and her idol, Roger Daltrey.
“Music became a way to channel my anxiety during my treatment,” she says. “There are songs I’ve written that I will always associate with my experience with cancer, a reminder of what I went through and how I was helped.”
Emboldened by her struggles, this future star has finally found her voice.
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