Chris was moved to fundraise for The Institute of Cancer Research and Brain Tumour Research after his son Blaise was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018 at the age of six.
Blaise underwent major surgery, chemotherapy and several rounds of radiotherapy but, very sadly, died at the age of seven.
“When Blaise became ill, I knew I had to do something to honour him,” said Chris, “to make sure he had a legacy. Like any parent in my situation, I wanted to make sure that something meaningful came out of what had happened.”
Chris, also known as Chris Jam, was part of Jam MCs, the Manchester duo who performed at the Stone Roses’ iconic Spike Island gig in 1990 and toured with the Happy Mondays in the 1990s.
He started performing spoken word poetry at open mic nights in the 1990s, and has continued to write ever since. He wrote ‘Butterfly Strokes’ not long after Blaise died and ‘Immortals’ shortly after that.
Blaise’s younger sister, Asha, who was just five when he died, has also written a poem about Blaise which will be available to download alongside her father’s.
‘Writing helped me process my grief’
The singles are available to watch on YouTube and download for free from Bandcamp, but donations to the Virgin Money Giving page are encouraged, and Chris hopes that people will be generous with their support.
“I wanted to help fund research into brain tumours,” explained Chris, “but I wasn’t sure what the best way to do that was. Music and poetry is what I know, and what I’m good at, so I thought I should start there. Writing the pieces also helped me process my grief – they were a way of helping me try and make sense of what had happened to Blaise.”
Blaise was initially diagnosed with a low-grade glioma but, despite further investigation, his tumour type was never able to be identified.
Gliomas in children are not one disease, but are made up of very specific tumour types which may need different treatments. Funds raised by Chris’s EP will support life-changing studies the ICR to classify children’s brain tumours into different types and find new ways of treating each one.
Chris said: “Blaise was such a bright and sensitive boy. He loved a bit of rough and tumble, but there was a really thoughtful and calm side to him. He was hugely popular at school, and was just so full of joy and
light that everyone warmed to him. Seeing him and Asha together was a truly wonderful thing – they were chalk and cheese but they had such a strong bond that together they created a perfect sibling whole filled with laughter and love.
Helping other families
“Much more research into brain tumours needs to be done. There’s an urgency for better treatments and for better diagnoses. We were never able to find out exactly what cancer Blaise had – maybe if we’d been able to, it would have helped him.”
Professor Chris Jones said: “We’ve all been incredibly moved by Blaise’s story, and by the hard work Chris has put into creating a lasting legacy for him.
“Our team has made fantastic progress in developing ‘molecular’ tests to get a better understanding of the underlying biology of the different tumour types in gliomas, and we are hopeful of turning our growing understanding into new treatments. The money raised in Blaise’s name will help support our life-changing research, so we can make sure no other families have to go through what Blaise’s has.”
“I know it’s been a really difficult time for everyone recently,” said Chris, “but cancer isn’t going away. We want to do whatever we can to make sure no other families end up in our situation. I really hope people will support such a valuable cause, and that they’ll think of Blaise as they do.”
To listen to the EP, visit: www.chrisjammcr.bandcamp.com
You can donate to Chris’ Virgin Money Giving page here: https://bit.ly/3qUc2wh
If you would like to get involved and support our childhood cancer research, please contact Nicola Shaw in the Development Team, call 020 8722 4227 or email Nicola.Shaw@icr.ac.uk.
We are an internationally leading research centre in the study of childhood cancers and cancers in children, teenagers and young adults. Our researchers have also been responsible for making breakthrough discoveries in brain cancer.
Our childhood cancer research
Our brain cancer research
Images: Top: Chris with his son, Blaise. Middle: Blaise and Asha Nelson. Credit: Chris Nelson.