'Cystic fibrosis won't stop me singing'

Despite having a serious health condition, Bianca Nicholas has recorded a successful single, given live session radio performances, and appeared on The Voice.

What is cystic fibrosis?

  • Cystic fibrosis (CF) is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases.
  • Cystic fibrosis affects more than 9,000 people in the UK.
  • The disease affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick, sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food.
  • There is no cure for CF, but there are therapies and medicines to make it easier to live with the condition.

Thousands of young women in the UK dream of becoming pop stars, but few have a serious illness to contend with on top of their musical commitments.

Bianca Nicholas from Beckenham in Kent has sung a duet with Will Young and performed for Prince William, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge. Her single, Hold On To Your Dreams, was launched in 2011, entering the top 100 singles chart and reaching number 1 on the iTunes vocal chart.

Bianca, who was 22 at the time of this interview, also has cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that causes the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, to become clogged with thick, sticky mucus.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis include a troublesome cough, repeated chest infections, digestion problems and poor weight gain.

Living with cystic fibrosis

The illness requires rigorous physiotherapy and medication. Each day, Bianca has to spend up to 20 minutes doing breathing exercises, and takes between 30 and 40 tablets as well as using nebulisers and inhalers. She also has to inject herself with growth hormone each morning.

But she hasn't allowed her illness to blight her passion for music. "My therapies and treatments are time consuming and sometimes my illness gets me down, but I find that singing really lifts my mood and cheers me up," she says.

Bianca's musical career started when, at 15, she was granted a wish by Starlight Children's Foundation, a national charity that brightens the lives of seriously and terminally ill children by granting them once-in-a-lifetime wishes and providing entertainment in hospitals and hospices. 

Starlight arranged for Bianca to go to a top recording studio in London and record a number of cover singles for a special CD.

Bianca, now 26, has gone on to sing live at many Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Starlight events. She's seen her single re-enter the vocal chart at number 2 in 2013, appeared on The Voice UK in 2014, and took part in Eurovision 2015.

Singing improves cystic fibrosis symptoms

As well as boosting her confidence, Bianca believes her singing has also improved her physical health.

One of the many effects of cystic fibrosis is that breathing is very difficult because of sticky mucus in the lungs. Bianca thinks singing helps keep her lungs clear. 

"I used to need to have my chest pummelled each morning to clear the mucus, but since I've been singing my lungs have been clearer and I generally only need to do breathing exercises. Singing is a type of deep breathing exercise and I feel it helps to strengthen my lungs, which in turn seems to help my condition.

"Having cystic fibrosis has never stopped me from trying to realise my dreams. I feel so lucky that the one thing I love doing more than anything else – singing – is keeping me healthy, too."

Page last reviewed: 15/10/2015

Next review due: 15/10/2017

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Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, which become clogged with thick, sticky mucus. It is caused by a faulty gene that controls the movement of salt and water in and out of cells in the body. Dr Alan Day explains how the disorder is treated.

Media last reviewed: 14/07/2015

Next review due: 14/07/2017

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