Melissa Benoit

Music and CF: My Journey

I was born in Fergus ON on Sept.11,1986 to my parents, David and Lynda Shaw. I left the hospital to begin my life on a farm near Arthur ON. I was welcomed by three older brothers who adored their new baby sister. I was not a healthy baby and at the age of three months, I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). After beginning a regimen of cotazymes and vitamins, I began to gain weight and was on my way to being a healthy child. I made trips to Sick Kids every three months but managed to stay reasonably healthy.

I attended preschool, Arthur Public School, Arthur District High School and graduated from the University of Guelph. My parents wanted me to have a normal childhood and to be as healthy as possible. These are two opposing goals. Going to school and making friends with other children meant exposing me to germs, bacteria and contagious illnesses. My mother worried but I survived.

At the time I started preschool, I began taking music lessons. Little did we know what a profound effect it would have on my future. My mother teaches piano, violin and cello. She encouraged me to develop my musical talents to their fullest. I learned to play piano, guitar, clarinet and drums. During high school I began taking vocal lessons. Singing and playing clarinet are wonderful forms of physiotherapy.

When I was three years old, my family adopted a special needs child. My sister Kara was born at twenty-three weeks gestation weighing 1 lb. 4 oz. She is totally blind and has Asperger’s Syndrome. What are the chances a musical family would adopt a musical baby? Kara has been diagnosed a music savant. She is a pianist and can play anything she hears. We have spent many hours playing and singing together. My brothers also play several musical instruments. There is always music in the Shaw household.

During my first hospitalization at St.Mike’s in Toronto, I, along with some other CF patients, was exposed to cepacia. This is a deadly bacteria to CFers. I lost several friends to cepacia. I was one of the lucky ones! I began to write songs for those who had died. Sadly, I lost one of my closest friends and for her, I wrote the song “Breathe Easy” This is also the title of my album. I intend to use proceeds from this album to aid in the search for a cure. 

Lindsay Shaw