Guitarist Phil is back on track after cancer battle

Phil Johnson and his wife Sally Leigh
Phil Johnson and his wife Sally Leigh
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A Sheffield musician who had to give up playing his beloved guitar during his cancer treatment is to perform for the charity which supported him.

Guitarist Phil Johnson will play at the Cav Folk Fest tomorrow with his band, Murder at the Seaside, alongside his supportive partner, Sally Leigh.

The event will support Sheffield charity Cavendish Cancer Care.

In 2013, Phil, aged 43, of Meersbrook, began to feel unwell during a gig at a Sheffield bar. Unbeknownst to the band, it would be their last for some time.

Doctors originally thought Phil had a chest infection, but four days before Christmas he was told there was a very slim chance he had a rare form of blood cancer.

A few months later, Phil was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and began treatment for the disease.

He said: “A cycle of intensive chemotherapy every two weeks was really painful and made me really weak.

“It meant that I had to let go of another important part of my life for six months – my guitar.”

Earlier this year, Phil was able to return to his job as a lecturer at Barnsley College on a part time basis and plans to go back to work full time in September – the first anniversary of the end of his cancer treatment.

He said: “Looking back, I was never ‘frightened’ of the cancer. Sally and I went into ‘fight mode’ and decided to just get on with life.”

However, Phil found he was struggling to sleep and relax and Cavendish Cancer Care was recommended to him. He began to attend Shiatsu Massage sessions and the side effects of his chemotherapy started to ease.

Singer Sally, aged 30, said: “I was pleased that Phil decided to try out the Cavendish Centre.

“It gave him the confidence to push himself a bit further – soon he was heading out to gigs on his own or visiting friends.

With support from both Sally and Cavendish, Phil began to get back into music and Murder at the Seaside played a gig at Sheffield’s The Green Room, before going on to play at Tramlines.

The couple then found out about Cavendish Cancer Care’s Cav Folk Fest and knew it was a great opportunity to support the cause.

Sally said: “We’d have been lost without Cavendish, so that’s why we’re playing in the festival.”

n The Cav Folk Fest is tomorrow at Crookes Social Club from 7pm. Tickets are available by calling 07928 294828 or on the door.