Professor O'Sullivan launches debut album inspired by his patients

One of Northern Ireland’s leading oncologists is swapping his stethoscope for a guitar, all to raise funds for Friends of the Cancer Centre.

Professor Joe O’Sullivan, clinical director of oncology at the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, has written and recorded an album inspired by his patients and his work as an oncologist.  The album, Take a Deep Breath, was recorded with Joe’s bandmates Sarah Williamson, a health service manager and Dr Rossa Brazil, a psychiatrist.  The album, which is available to buy now here , features ten tracks covering some of the memorable encounters Joe has had with his patients throughout his career and touches upon love, loss, grief, forgiveness and even men’s unwillingness to talk about their feelings.  The album artwork also has a connection to Joe’s work as it features a painting by one of his former patient’s, local artist Graham Catney.  In a fitting partnership, Joe is donating the proceeds from the album to Friends of the Cancer Centre.

Commenting on what inspired his music and the making of the album, Joe said:

“I have always loved music and I first started playing guitar at University and over the years I’ve even been in a couple of cover bands.  In recent years I’ve started to write my own songs and that’s really how the album started.  Most songwriters say you should write about what you know and what you care about, so for me that meant my work and my patients. 

“The main inspiration behind the album comes from the courageous people I’ve had the privilege of meeting and treating over the years.  When I began the writing process I started to reflect on some of the wisdom I have learned from my patients, especially learning how to appreciate the important things in life and living in the moment.  One of the things that always struck me is that while a cancer diagnosis has a huge impact on an individual, it’s not only the patient who has to live and cope with the diagnosis.  Our relationships and the people we love become a huge factor in coping with cancer.  The title track from the album, ‘Take a Deep Breath’ captures this general theme of the album.  This song was inspired by an encounter with a married couple a few years ago. The man was in distress toward the end of his life and his wife, as words of comfort, told him to take a deep breath.  I’ve reflected on that moment, as well as the other moments that have inspired each of my tracks, many times and believe that love can be a hugely healing force in a patient’s journey.”

Commenting on why he chose Friends of the Cancer Centre, Joe said:

“I am a very strong supporter of Friends of the Cancer Centre.  Personally I love how the charity survives on the goodwill of our patients and recycles that good will for the benefit of others.  Professionally, especially in my role as clinical director, I could not imagine how we could have made such massive progress in research, staffing and patient comfort without Friends of the Cancer Centre.  From funding 31 additional doctors, nurses and researchers throughout the Cancer Centre, to investing nearly £1million into local cancer research; the charity has firmly become part of the life of the hospital.  If my album can help the work of this fantastic charity and the patients that it works hard to support, even in a small way, I’ll be very happy.” 

Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted that Joe has decided to donate the proceeds from his wonderful album to Friends of the Cancer Centre. 

“The money raised from the album will make a real difference to our work, but just as important is the impact it will have on our patients and supporters through the positive message it delivers.  When someone is told that they have cancer it’s often hard to think of anything else and for many their life, and the lives of those they love, become focused on cancer.  For me, Joe’s album tells patients that life doesn’t have to stop when you get cancer and you should still try to enjoy every moment you can with those that mean the most to you.  That’s a powerful message that I think we can all live by.”

Take a Deep Breath will be available to buy now here or from iTunes.  You can also check out the video for his track For You below.


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