WHEN Judith Sawyer was given the news she had breast cancer, her first thought was for her family.
Six years on the grandmother-of-three stands proudly with the ladies of the Didcot Divas, a singing group she set up in the wake of beating cancer.
The group now raises money for other breast cancer sufferers and their families.
Mrs Sawyer, 69, from the Ladygrove estate, said: “Most of the ladies in the Didcot Divas have been touched by cancer in some way.But when we all sing in harmony, wearing our bright pink scarves, we are doing our bit to fight cancer and that makes me very thankful and proud.”
Mrs Sawyer trained at the Royal College of Music and sang semi-professionally before marrying and having children.
While living in Abingdon in 2006 she went for a routine mammogram.
She said: “When the door opened and I saw two people waiting to talk to me I knew it was bad news.
“Even so, I took the news I had cancer quite calmly. But at 4am the next morning I was in Tesco shopping for a bathrobe to take into hospital – I was in shock.”
Mrs Sawyer underwent two rounds of surgery, followed by radiotherapy and three years of drug therapy before being discharged in July.
She said: “Afterwards I felt I wanted to do something.
“Then I met Neville Harris the local councillor for Ladygrove, and he tried to persuade me to start a singing group, but I wasn’t sure. So he put an ad for ladies interested in singing in the Ladygrove magazine.”
In February 2010, six ladies who saw the ad met at Mrs Sawyer’s house.
The group grew to 12, then 34 and moved into Didcot’s Methodist Church hall.
Mrs Sawyer said: “Initially the ladies said: ‘No harmonies and no concerts.’ “But we were soon singing in three-part harmonies and we put on a concert for the church.
“Word spread and we now perform regularly.”
The group’s name was coined by their ‘butler’ Ian Kerr.
Mrs Sawyer said: “Ian is married to one of our members and comes along to make us tea. When we were discussing a name for the group one day a voice piped up from the kitchen: ‘You should be called the Didcot Divas’ and there we had it.”
The Divas now ask for donations at their concerts for the charity Against Breast Cancer, based in Abingdon.
Mrs Sawyer said: “Ladies of the group have fought cancer, lost husbands and are carers for poorly loved ones.
“But the couple of hours we spend a week singing lifts our spirits and helps others, and we love it.”
To find out more about the Didcot Divas call Mrs Sawyer on 01235 816819.