Leg wax led to Cara O'Sullivan’s cancer diagnosis

Acclaimed soprano Cara O’Sullivan has revealed that a leg wax led to a cancer diagnosis.

Soprano Cara O'Sullivan with Ciara Wilson, a beautician and the president of Network Cork, yesterday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

She said the Irish Cancer Society’s latest awareness campaign brought it all back.

The renowned singer said Ciara Wilson, a beauty therapist who is president of Network Cork, an organisation for women in business, saved her life.

While waxing Cara’s legs, Ciara noticed a lump on her upper left thigh and suggested she get it checked out.

Cara went to her doctor and was referred to consultant surgeon Denis Richardson, who removed the tumour in the Bon Secours Hospital. He later confirmed she had a low-grade cancerous tumour.

Cara, who is one of more than 250,000 cancer survivors in Ireland, said the charity’s series of advertisements telling people to ‘Get Cancer’ were upsetting. “It dragged up a lot of memories for me, but that’s OK if it helps to raise awareness.”

In 1996 Cara, then aged 34, decided to go on a weight management programme because she was making her debut as a singer with the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff. “I decided to treat myself and get my legs waxed. I never got them done before,” she recalled.

“I had noticed what I thought was cellulite and told Ciara that I did not know what to do about it.”

Ciara replied: “The one thing I know about is cellulite. It is my job, but that’s not cellulite. You need to get it checked out.”

Cara did what she was told, and some weeks later the tumour was surgically removed. It was arranged that Cara would have radiation therapy in a cancer treatment centre in Cardiff so she could continue to work. “I had radiotherapy in the centre every morning before I went to work. Rehearsals started every morning at 10.30am. I thought I was going to be tired, but the doctor told me I would be fine — I was young and healthy. I did lose the ability to sleep. I used to wake up very early every morning. I don’t really know why. But I did get better. It was 20 years ago, and I have not had a problem since.”

Ciara said she was just 19 when she opened her first beauty salon in Cork and Cara, a family friend, became one of her customers.

“When I spotted the lump on Cara’s leg, I was only a few years out of college, but I knew it wasn’t right. Cara thought it was a bit of cellulite, but I knew it wasn’t. I am so glad I told her to have it checked by a doctor.”

Some years later, Cara underwent another operation to remove nodes from her vocal cords. “The condition was unrelated to the tumour, but the nodules could turn cancerous. I got them removed and, afterwards, my voice felt like silk.”

The ‘Get Cancer’ campaign is designed to provoke a conversation about cancer’s devastating effects and to remove some of the fear about cancer. Cara said she did not feel the need to talk about her cancer experience but wanted to play her part in helping people to be more aware of their bodies and to stay well.

  • Cara O’Sullivan will be in concert with special guest John Molloy, accompanied by John O’Brien and Ciara Moroney at Dublin’s National Concert Hall on January 26; University Concert Hall, Limerick, on February 4; and Cork Opera House on February 12.


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