Those who live in Sea Point during lockdown have had the pleasure of being entertained by the beautiful voice of Danielle Bitton. While many have heard of her as the Sea Point balcony singer, few know the story that led her here.
When Bitton went to visit her gynaecologist for her regular check up this year, her whole world was turned upside down. While on tour performing across 10 cities as Eva Peron in the musical Evita, she noticed a lump in her breast.
“My last appointment was on February 1, 2019. Even though I had been advised to check my breasts regularly, I thought an annual checkup was enough. Clearly this was not the case. I wanted to share my story because just like you, it never occurred to me in a million years that I would get breast cancer. I wasn’t even aware of the different kinds of breast cancers,” says Bitton.
When back in Cape Town, Bitton visited the hospital she once visited with her father who died of kidney cancer and her grandfather who died of prostate cancer. During a discussion with her doctor about the different types and stages of cancer, reality hit.
“Then it finally hit me, I have breast cancer, WTF? How is this happening to me? I cried for a bit until the shock wore off and then became paralysed with fear at the thought of chemo, losing my beautiful long hair and a double mastectomy meaning I would be losing my most prized assets, my perfectly perky breasts. The next morning I woke up feeling like I was waking up from a bad dream and then realized it wasn’t a dream, I have breast cancer,” adds Bitton.
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Hello my dear friends, I want to thank you first of all, for your prayers, love and support from all over the world during this trying time. A lot of you have been asking me what’s going on with my health?The truth is it was very hard for me to go into detail with each and every one of you. I have been journaling throughout my experience and it has been very cathartic, it has also allowed me to process what was actually happening, as surreal as it seemed. I am ready now and would like to share my story with you. 🦋www.thejourneywithin.co.za 🦋–>>Link in my Bio<<–( *Don’t be like my mother and read it back to front, 😂 start at part 1) ___________________________________________ Feel free to share it as my aim is to raise awareness and form a community of women that can offer support to one another ,💗 #breastcancer #brca2 #raiseawareness #myjourney #thejourneywithin #journeywithin #warriorwoman #shedlight #blogger #surviveandthrive #inspire #health #life #allwehaveisnow #heal #brcasisterhood #breastcancerawareness #breastcancerwarrior #breastcancercare #breastcancernow #breastcancerjourney #breastcancersurvivor #warriorwomen #womensmonth #surviveandthrive #brcasisterhood
After receiving her results Bitton had to go on with her life. She had work to do, places to be and a life to live whether she had cancer or not. She pushed onward saying, “I’m not gonna let this ‘invasion’ bring me down, it must go”.
A lot of treatment was ahead in Bitton’s life, she had a full schedule of chemotherapy waiting and a big day marked on her calendar when she would go under the knife to remove part of herself along with the cancerous tumor that was threatening her existence.
“The morning of my surgery I was up at 7.10 am. I was scheduled to go to Christian Barnard Hospital at 8.30 am for a special dye injection that would help the doctors identify the cancerous cells in the breasts and lymph nodes during surgery. I went to Vincent Pallotti Hospital where I was to be admitted for surgery at 10 am,” recounts Bitton.
With her brother by her side, she prepared to close her eye and open them again later, being a different person and having changed in a big way.
“I thought I would cry when I saw the scars, but I didn’t. I knew this was temporary and I would get a new pair of breasts and a new nipple by the end of the year. I was just glad the cancer was out,” says Bitton.
And so began the rest of Bitton’s life.
“My mother and brother came with me to my first chemo session at Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital.”
The next few days were chemo session after chemo session as Bitton battled ahead. As if Bitton’s struggles weren’t enough, lockdown had just been instated and the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing.
“I remembered the Indian belief that every true miracle requires a sacrifice, and this was mine. Sacrificing my hair, energy and my appetite for life, my voice, the ability to give and spread light right now, it’s hard to connect to divine energy when you are feeling this way, absolutely depleted on every cellular level,” recounts Bitton.
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I love my Chemo Nurses, these women are incredible! Shelley @shemuscat, Belinda and Samantha, thank you for your kindness and having a jol with me today on my last Red Devil Chemo. Next is Taxol Chemo for 12 weeks but with you ladies by my side, I know I can do it! Do you see how they have little photos pinned on them? it’s so patients can recognise who they are once all the protective gear is on. 💗 My Nurses you aren’t unsung! I’m singing your praises and will be singing to you loud from my balcony on the 24th 25th n 30th April 🙌 #nurses #heroes #chemoroom #chemoparty #breastcancerawareness #beatcancer #sing #dance #love #smile #protectivegear #ninjanurses #breastcancer #hospital #chemotherapy
She reminded herself that she had to give in and hope for the best rather than fight the process along the way.
“All I can do is surrender, to survive this and pray for a miracle. I try and remind myself that I’ve come this far and I only have one more beating from The Red Devil to endure before the hardest of the chemo is over,” she says.
Almost as though it was a calling, Bitton felt she needed to take to her balcony and share her voice during these tough times, not just for herself but for everyone struggling.
“I decided today was the day, I was going to go out on my balcony and sing to my neighbours. While I had this window between chemo sessions and I was feeling good, I wanted to sing! The response from my neighbours was amazing, they all came out to watch clapped and screamed and sang along to the uptempo songs. I was a bit concerned at first as I didn’t know if they would like it or shout at me to shut up! Thankfully they enjoyed it,” says Bitton.
A new stage of Bitton’s life had just began. It might not have been the stage she was used to but she was still able to share her gift while cheering up her neighbours and giving herself hope for the future at the same time.
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Since then Bitton has experience negative feedback regarding her concerts, with the Cape Town City Council intervening and saying that complaints had been received and that Bitton would need to get consent from her neighbours in order to continue sharing her music.
A petition with over 7000 signatures was started to push back so that Bitton would be allowed to sing.
“I thought 500 would be enough, but two hours later it was at 1000 signatures. I couldn’t believe the amount of support! People from my community in Sea Point, from all over South Africa and the rest of the world were signing the petition and emailing letters,” she says.
In no time the people of Sea Point and South Africans around the world came together to support her.
Bitton’s next concert is scheduled to take place on May 9 at sunset, 17.45pm with a 6pm start. If you don’t live in Sea Point you can tune in via her Instagram here.
While Bitton’s story is one of ups and downs, it is an inspiring journey that proves all hardships can be overcome and even something as simple as singing your favourite songs from your balcony can bring people together and change your outlook on the future.
Bitton is continuing to fight and live on, reminding us to just keep singing.
Pictures: Danielle Bitton