Local breast cancer survivor Rachel Akkoç was so moved by the experience of her first Relay for Life event last year in 2022 that she went home and wrote a song about it.
Seeing the sheer scale of how cancer has affected Co Donegal really hit home with Rachel. She was struck, in particular, by the amount of people she witnessed wearing the purple survivors’ t-shirt.
It demonstrated how incredibly pervasive cancer is in our community.
Rachel said “I saw what I can only describe as a sea of purple in front of me – people who were wearing the same uniform of survivorship as myself, all coming together with other affected people for this special annual fundraising event.
“This inspired me to capture the moment in song. The lyrics and music for the song started flowing as soon as I got home from Relay and very quickly the song was written and arranged for a small orchestra. I wanted to condense the feelings of unity and support that I witnessed on the pitch at the ATU in Letterkenny into music, which is my passion.
“The thousands of candles representing loved ones who have been lost to cancer looked to me like a single beacon of light and hope to all affected by this insidious disease.’
“When you go through a cancer diagnosis and treatment, you can feel very alone. Coming to an event like Relay reminds you that you’re not alone. You’re very much a part of an ever-expanding club that nobody wants to be a member of, but a brilliant club, nevertheless – one where everyone understands the ‘secret handshake’, so to speak, and the huge importance of fundraising for much-needed support services.
“Families, friends, colleagues, caregivers and survivors all coming together with one singular purpose; to raise vital funds for charity, and specifically the Irish Cancer Society, via Relay for Life. At Relay we remember those we’ve lost and celebrate the ones like me who came out the other side, a little shaken up, but still fighting.”
Rachel explains that the title for the song ‘The War’ is a reference to the long game – the war against cancer.
It represents the quest for a cure, ultimately, and the ongoing research and development that aims to increase survival rates and life expectancy in the interim.
The trojan work undertaken by the Irish Cancer Society in this country was at the forefront of Rachel’s mind while penning the song. The references to ‘battle’ in the song represent the individual battles people face against cancer.
She adds “We don’t always win those personal battles, unfortunately, but the hope is that the war against cancer will yield some major results one day. In the meantime, events like Relay give hope for the future. As a collective, we can achieve great things.’
Rachel hopes that her song will help with the fundraising efforts this year.
To that end, she teamed up with gifted local multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Amy Meehan, to record the song.
Amy kindly agreed to sing the lead vocals, as well as playing piano and bass guitar on the track. She also skilfully mixed and mastered the finished song. A team of local musicians generously donated their time to record the musical arrangement. It’s poignant too, that the cellist on the track is a breast cancer survivor, just like Rachel.
The wonderful Relay Survivors’ Choir are also on board to assist with vocals on stage. Rachel would like to thank all those who helped with the song in any way, and in particular, Amy Meehan, who has offered up her expertise and talents in order to bring Rachel’s musical vision to life for this project.
‘The War’ will be released on the usual streaming platforms and on social media in the coming weeks, and all proceeds will go to Relay for Life Donegal. It is planned to perform the song on stage at the Relay event on Saturday, 3rd June at the ATU Campus in Letterkenny, with the Survivors’ Choir, of which Rachel is a member. All are welcome!
The War –
Music/Lyrics/Arrangement by Rachel Akkoç (pronounced Ah-coach)
Performed by Amy Meehan and Rachel Akkoç
Mastered and recorded by Amy Meehan
Piano/Bass Guitar/Vocals – Amy Meehan
Backing/Incidental Vocals – Rachel Akkoç
Mandola – Colm Breathnach
Cello – Naoimh Simpson
Violin – Anna Curley
Flute – Marian Kerr
Timpani – Michael Kielty