Tracy Kashi: My Cancer Gap Year at JW3

Tracy Kashi's My Cancer Gap Year premieres at JW3 in Finchley Road on October 31

Tracy Kashi's My Cancer Gap Year premieres at JW3 in Finchley Road on October 31 - Credit: Archant

After a shock cancer diagnosis the jazz singer has turned to cabaret and comedy to raise funds for a worthy cause

Jazz singer and former Henrietta Barnett pupil Tracy Kashi premieres her show My Cancer Gap Year at JW3 on Halloween, combining cabaret, comedy and advice on the big C to raise funds for charity. We asked some questions:

Q: You've been performing for years in West End venues like Ronnie Scotts, what has been most memorable?

A: It has to be performing with Bobby McFerrin at the Royal Festival Hall. He was electric, so magnetic and taught me to really relax and enjoy the audience. In the recording studio, singing the title tracks for ITV's "Maigret" with Rowan Atkinson and "The Halcyon, which meant I shared album space with Beverly Knight and Jamie Callum. A huge thrill for me.

Q: And then you had a shock cancer diagnosis..

A: Well, I like to joke that the Northern Line saved my life. A particularly grimy journey forced me into a late-night shower. I was not a regular checker as I had no idea that younger women can get breast cancer. (10percent do, but current wisdom recommends women of all ages become familiar through regular checking to know what's normal for them.) I found a lump and got it checked.

Q: What happened next?

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A: Shock, crazy purchases and black humour were my initial responses. My kids were two and seven at the time so my primary concern was their stability and welfare.

I called in the troops of family and friends and with a lot of help, we got through that first crazy year. Chemotherapy was the hardest challenge mentally and physically. Hormone therapy-inducing permanent medical menopause is an ongoing mind boggler of sweats, freezes and mood swings. Put it this way, my husband is a saint.

Q: Why did you decide comedy was an antidote for the awfulness?

A: Cancer is one of those words that sends shivers down the spine and isn't normally talked about when you're healthy. Comedy is a proven way to break down barriers and to get people to talk about it, and touch themselves.

Q: What can audiences expect from your show?

A: An honest portrayal of a cancer gap year through comedy and heartfelt show-stopping songs from the back catalogue of Sondheim, Barbra Streisand and Nina Simone. Hopefully people will come away with a better understanding of the life shock that is breast cancer, and that it is never too early to start checking regularly. Best of all, 100 percent of the artists' profits will go to the incredible charity, Future Dreams. It's such a cliche but I've had a journey and I'd like to share it with people. I think it's a story worth telling.

My Cancer Gap Year, is at JW3, Finchley Road on October 31. JW3 box office 020 7433 8988