After facing a major battle with cancer as a child, Melissa Cavanagh, 25, from Sunderland is finally getting to live her dream as she tackles this week’s battle rounds on The Voice UK…
Melissa, you’re through to The Voice UK’s battles this week but you’ve already had one major battle in your life having been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma aged 13. That must have been tough…
“It was. All I really associated with the word cancer was death and old people – being 13 I didn’t really know about it. My cancer was already at the worst stage, and I was told if it had been discovered any later, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
What treatment did you have to help fight the disease?
“I had chemotherapy for eight months and radiotherapy. All my hair fell out with the chemo but, when I had to take a break from it, my hair grew back but grey, which was really weird. But then it all fell out again.”
Were you able to remain positive at all throughout your treatment?
“Eventually. Just after I was diagnosed, I thought: ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why is this happening?’ I just didn’t understand it. There were times during treatment where I thought I might die but I knew there was nothing I could do about it, so I just had to stay positive.”
We know you’ve been cancer free for 11 years now. That’s a massive milestone…
“I know, it’s amazing! It felt like an eternity when I was actually going through the treatment and, looking back, it was kind of this big whirlwind. But now, 11 years on, it’s crazy how fast the time has gone.”
Thinking back to your blind audition for The Voice UK, how did it feel when Boy George turned his chair for you?
“Before I went on, I told myself I wasn’t going to focus the coaches turning around and that I just wanted to give a good performance. But then, as soon as I stepped onto the stage, my performance went out of the window and all I could focus on were those four big red chairs! Then, when I looked again and saw George was facing me, I literally screamed. It was crazy!”
You weren’t born when George was at his peak in the charts – did you know much about him? And what’s he been like as a mentor?
“I’d 100 per cent heard of his songs Karma Chameleon and Do You Really Want to Hurt Me then, when I studied musical theatre, I learned about his other songs through his musical, Taboo. George has been so lovely and his experience is second to none. Everything he says I just try and breathe it all in because he’s been there, done it and knows what he’s talking about. He’s also a fan of the headpiece I wore and called it my ‘face furniture’, which I liked.”
So, did your experience at the blind auditions make you more or less nervous going into your battle round, which we’ll see this week?
“Oh, I was actually a lot less nervous when it came to the battles. The blinds are almost like a fear of the unknown and I found it so intimidating singing to the back of those big red chairs. But, when George turned, I thought: ‘Well, someone thinks I’m good enough’, which gave me a massive confidence boost!”
Weren’t you afraid of going head-to-head with someone else on your team?
“Yeah, I was really scared but also really excited as well because, when I’ve watched The Voice UK previously, the battles have always been my favourite round. I think singing with someone else pushes you to be the best singer you can be.”
Which member of Team George are you up against in the battles?
“I’m battling against Vangelis, who’s incredible. When I saw his blind audition, I was in such awe of his voice and I thought whoever battles against him has got no chance! Then I found out it was going to me… I was very worried!”
So what can you tell us about the performance – is it an out-and-out battle or more of a duet?
“I really wanted us to both be the best we could be and I didn’t think we’d do that by shouting over one another. So Vangelis and I agree very early on that we just wanted it to be an epic duet. We’re singing a rocky ballad – that’s all I’m gonna say.”
In the battles, the other coaches get a chance to steal – so were you mindful of impressing all of them, not just George?
“Absolutely! Everyone on Team George wants to stay on Team George but, at the same time, only one person can go through, so to get a ‘steal’ is an incredible opportunity. So I wanted to make sure I put my heart and soul into my performance and gave it my all.”
I know we have to wait and see if you get through the battles… but how would you describe your experience on The Voice UK?
“So far, it’s been absolutely amazing. I just feel so lucky and grateful to have even had a blind audition in the first place, so to get as far as I have it’s incredible. It’s just crazy – but it’s a dream come true.”
Would you say that going through cancer as a child has changed your outlook on life?
“Having cancer has definitely made me more resilient and determined; it taught me that you only live once, so you’ve got to make the most of it. I feel so lucky to be alive and even luckier that I’m getting to realise my dream.”
Catch Melissa Cavanagh as the battles continue on The Voice UK on Saturday 3 March at 7.00pm on BBC1.