Susan still blows mean tune with just one lung

Tuba teacher Susan Bradley has returned to the Border Music Camp after 12 years and with only one lung. Picture:
TARA GOONAN

Tuba teacher Susan Bradley has returned to the Border Music Camp after 12 years and with only one lung. Picture: TARA GOONAN

“YOU have just been outplayed on the tuba by an elderly lady with one lung.”

That was tuba player Susan Bradley’s way of motivating musicians at the Border Music Camp, where she has returned after a 12-year hiatus.

But this time she is back with only one lung.

Just after Christmas five years ago, Ms Bradley was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer after developing a chronic cough.

She found she was not playing the tuba as well.

Ms Bradley had been playing the instrument for more than 40 years and said that it was what had saved her life.

“It’s the love of my life and because I play the tuba I know my lungs,” she said.

After the operation, which left her with five gold staples under her skin and one lung, Ms Bradley awoke wondering if she’d ever be able to make the same sound she once could out of the instrument she loved so dearly.

She remembered the first time she picked up the tuba since having the operation.

“When I got home from the hospital my brother tucked me in and I waited to hear his car leave,” she said.

“As soon as I heard it I hauled myself out of bed and clung to the furniture as I made my way to the spare room where my tuba was.

“I did feel fear but I had a hunger to know I could still do it.”

Ms Bradley said it wasn’t as easy as picking up the instrument and creating a note.

She had to reteach herself how to breathe and said playing the tuba was not about air pressure but air flow.

Ms Bradley said she used her experience to tutor aspiring tuba players.

“It’s the kids that have given me the strength and have kept me going,” she said.

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