The medicine of music: Tim Vallillee turns to song as therapy for cystic fibrosis and for life – TheChronicleHerald.ca

YARMOUTH, N.S.

For Tim Vallillee, music is medicine.

Something he can reach out to when hes hurting and when hes not. Something he can tap into for his physical health and his soul.

Something, most importantly,he can share with others.

Ive always felt that the fact I sing so much has been added therapy for me, says Vallillee, 52, who has cystic fibrosis.

Vallillee grew up in Yarmouth and lives in the Valley with his wife Agatha and son Isaiah. When COVID-19 came into play, he lost his gigs as venues were no longer open to the public.

When theyre taken away your musical brain says, this really sucks. But my CF brain says I cant do my thing, how am I going to tell how Im feeling?

Singing is a barometer that I use for the level of my health, he explains, likening it to an early warning device that lets him know how hes feeling inside especially when hes reaching for those high notes.

Ive got a pretty powerful voice but you cant do that without air in your lungs, he says. If that air is not in there it shows in my voice. It can be very subtle, but I notice it. I know something is brewing.

But where theres a will, theres a way.

Vallillee has been performing and sharing music Thursday evenings via Facebook live on his personal social media page. For his first session he put his iPhone in a tripod, sat on his bed and played for a couple of hours. Its now a highlight of his week.

Its great because I get to do what I like to do and its all part of my life therapy to have music in my life.

And hes happy to have that connection with others again.

In addition to Facebook you can also hear his music on YouTube. He also has a website to connect with others http://www.timothyv.ca.

Vallillee learned to play the guitar when he was 18. But it was something that happened when he was 16 that chartered his musical course.

My dad had a massive heart attack and when he was in the hospital . . . I promised my dad that if he wouldnt die I would learn to play an instrument, he says. He always wanted one of his four kids to learn an instrument. He always joked the best thing we could play was the record player.

His father recovered and a couple of years later reminded Vallillee of his promise. So the son grabbed a guitar and taught himself to play.

He ended up playing in many bands with friends. One of his first gigs was a variety show during Yarmouth high schools winter carnival in the 1980s.

Vallillee turns to music to express himself when hes feeling happy, sad, joyful, fearful sometimes bored and, more recently, heartbroken. His most recent original song is called Home To Me.

Its a song he wrote about what a special place Nova Scotia is. He wrote the song following the April mass shooting tragedy in the province. In the lyrics he picked out places and experiences in Nova Scotiathat he connects with and hopes others will as well.

I tried to encompass as many people as I could from Yarmouth to Cape Breton, he says.

Vallillee didnt want the song to just be about healing right now but a song people can listen to at any point in their life, whether next week, next month, or next year, and it will make them feel good.

Folks from this part of the country, are different from all the rest. We've got a special something deep down in our chest.

Nova Scotia is where I roam...Nova Scotia, that's my home. Nova Scotia is where I'll be ... Nova Scotia, is home to me.

Vallillee'swife, Agatha Bourassa, says not only is music where her husband shines, its a gift he gives to others.

This great song idea came about like every one of Tims songs have over the past two decades. Nobody really knows how he writes but he sparks an idea. Sometimes he pulls off on the side of the road and all of a sudden he regurgitates a song, she says. We just lived through this horrific tragedy in Nova Scotia and maybe no one feels like celebrating but Tim truly wrote that song to try and uplift every Nova Scotian. Lets celebrate life because every breath is worth it.

Indeed. Breaths are something those with cystic fibrosis cant take for granted. Which makes life challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. People with immune deficiencies and underlying health issues are especially at risk.

Still, Vallillee isnt doing anything drastically different now than he does in normal times. Thats because, in a sense, hes always living in a COVID reality.

I used to say Im one bug away from getting sick and ending up in the hospital and dying in a week Ive always lived that perspective, he says, adding those with CF are very used to avoiding germs.

He calls himself a germ ninja.

Its not like I normally go around in a mask, but I will in a hospital. And Im vigilantabout always trying to wash my hands and avoid germs.

My wife, God love her, if she hears anybody coughing or sneezing in my direction even if were sitting a movie theatre and she hears somebody cough behind or near us its like weve got to move, he says. Shes seen me knock on deaths door quite a number of times. Thankfully we survived that.

Fortunately for Vallillee and his family, his health has been good in recent years. He hasnt been in the hospital in abouteight years and he attributes this to Kalydeco, a new medication he received six years ago. Its been a game-changer.

It basically goes in and changes CF genes inside my body on a genetic level. Because of that my lung function jumped about 20 per cent when I first got on it, he says. It virtually saved my life. I havent been in the hospital since. Ive had a couple of rounds of being sick, but never to the point that I was hospitalized.

The health of others with cystic fibrosis is also never far from Vallillees thoughts. Hes been promoting an online House of Commons petition aimed at helping Canadians with cystic fibrosis, cancer and other life-threatening diseases to have access to medicines and clinical trials that could save, prolong and/or improve their lives.

And then there is fundraising that has always been a special cause for Vallillees family, especially during May, which is Cystic Fibrosis Month.

COVID-19 will have an impact in terms of preventing people from coming together physically in large numbers to fundraise. In some areas that held traditional walks each May, virtual walks are being held instead.

In other words, COVID wont silence efforts in more ways than one.

On Saturday, May 16, from noonto 12 a.m. he and others will take part in an event called the 12-Hour Sing-A-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis via Facebook live. Darrin Harvey of 89.3 K-Rock will the celebrity host for the kickoff that day and Vallillee and Eben Higgins (both living with CF) will perform and also present numerous East Coast musicians from the region. The goal is to entertain, raise awareness and fundraise. Information about 12-Hour Sing-A-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis can be found on Facebook.

Vallillee is the second oldest person that he knows of in Nova Scotia living with cystic fibrosis.

Every cystic has this timeline, but we dont know what the timeline is, its all dependent on how healthy we are, if we take care of ourselves, if we get exposed to some bug, he says.

But Vallillee doesnt focus on getting sick. Instead, his focus is always on staying well.

And thats where his songs help.

Its the medicine of music, he says.

And he hopes its contagious.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. At present, there is no cure.

CF causes various effects on the body, but mainly affects the digestive system and lungs. The degree of CF severity differs from person to person, however, the persistence and ongoing infection in the lungs, with the destruction of lungs and loss of lung function, will eventually lead to death in the majority of people with CF.

Typical complications caused by cystic fibrosis are:

It is estimatedone in every 3,600 children born in Canada has CF. More than 4,300 Canadian children, adolescents, and adults with cystic fibrosis attend specialized CF clinics.

Visit the Cystic Fibrosis Canada website to learn more and to see how you can donate.

You can also visit the Cystic Fibrosis Atlantic Canada website

CF is a multi-system disorder that produces a variety of symptoms including:

CF is a genetic disease that occurs when a child inherits two defective copies of the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis, one from each parent. Approximately, one in 25 Canadians carry one defective copy of the CF gene. Carriers do not have CF, nor do they exhibit any of the related symptoms.

When two CF carriers have a child, there is a 25 percent chance that the child will be born with CF. There is also a 50 per cent chance that the child will be a carrier, and a 25 per cent chance that the child will not be a carrier, nor have CF.

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The medicine of music: Tim Vallillee turns to song as therapy for cystic fibrosis and for life - TheChronicleHerald.ca

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