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‘It really does give you a voice’: Whitby, Ont. woman with CF performs in virtual choir

Whitby woman performs in CF international virtual choir
WATCH: One Whitby woman has found her voice, thanks to the internet and a U.S. program. As Aaron Streck reports, it's led to her performing in an international virtual choir.

The internet allows people across the world to find a variety of things.

For one Whitby, Ont. woman with cystic fibrosis, it’s helped her find her voice, leading to her performing in an international virtual choir.

Debra Mattson, president of the Durham Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, never thought she’d be able to belt out any notes.

“It literally is stealing our breath as we get older,” said Mattson, 48, describing the illness’s effects.

But Mattson has found that the art of singing actually helps her combat the effects of CF.

“It really does give you a voice,” said Mattson.

READ MORE: Man charged after Durham Region paramedic ‘violently assaulted’ at Oshawa hospital

And she’s been able to find that voice with some help from a program called sINgSPIRE, organized by Breathe Bravely.

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For an hour every week, Mattson works with a professional voice instructor in Sioux Falls, S.D. via video call.

“There’s the singing part, but there’s also the breath control that you learn that actually helps improve your lung function,” said Mattson.

“This program in and of itself — regardless if you have a 100 per cent lung function, or 90 per cent lung function or 20 per cent lung function — [it’s] not the amount of breath that you have but it’s what you do with it,” said Ashley Ballou-Bonnema, executive director and founder of Breathe Bravely.
Mother calling for action on bringing Cystic Fibrosis medication to Canada
Mother calling for action on bringing Cystic Fibrosis medication to Canada

Ballou-Bonnema also has cystic fibrosis and understands what Mattson is going through.

She knows it can be an isolating disease that prevents those with CF from being in the same room with others who have the disease.

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So she brought together 14 individuals from all over the world to be part of a virtual choir.

“Knowing that there’s no possibility that we can all get together and sing,” Ballou-Bonnema said, “I wondered if there was another way in which we could come together and join our voices in a way defying what CF puts upon us as limitations.”

“I just felt that it brought out everything in my voice and to have it combined with the other voices, it was really moving,” said Mattson.

“I was brought to tears.”

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Cystic fibrosis impacts over 100 families in the Durham Region and 4,500 across the country.

While there may not yet be a cure, Mattson plans to continue singing and to empower others to find their voice during the fight.

From lemonade to necklaces, young girl raises $100K for Cystic Fibrosis Canada
From lemonade to necklaces, young girl raises $100K for Cystic Fibrosis Canada