David Dallas

2012 Scholarship Recipient

“My hands started to blister and I couldn’t even play my guitar, the thing I love most in the world.”—David Dallas

When Ringo Starr cried out, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers,” at the end of the Helter Skelter recording on the Beatle’s white album, his blisters were for entirely different reasons than David Dallas’ blisters. Apparently, Ringo played the drums so forcefully on this track, the only way out of the session, which had become an epic jam session, was to yell out in protest to his band mates.

If protesting against blisters had been a viable option for David, he surely would have protested, if only so he could play guitar again. But David’s blisters weren’t from playing a musical instrument for too long. His blisters were one of the side effects of the chemotherapy he was receiving to save his life.

David was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 12 years old. It started with severe stomach pain that wouldn’t go away. After several visits to the Alberta Children’s Hospital emergency centre, David received an ultrasound that revealed an 18-centimetre tumour. Over the next four months, David underwent intensive cancer treatment, which included chemotherapy by spinal tap to both his spine and brain.

What kept David going during this time was the support of his family and friends, the amazing nurses at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and, of course, his music. Isolated at the hospital and unable to play guitar, David’s only thought was the moment he would play again.

On the horizon for David was the fulfillment of a wish through the Children’s Wish Foundation. Unlike most kids, however, David’s wish wasn’t a trip to Disneyland. David had asked for music equipment and a Les Paul guitar, his Sadie, the guitar he still uses today.

And David is still holding on to that dream of making music, a dream that you are helping him realize through a Kids Cancer Care Derek Wandzura Memorial Scholarship.

When David auditioned for the jazz guitar program at the Mount Royal University Conservatory of Music, it was Sadie who saw him through the audition. Unfortunately, for David, the jazz program at Mount Royal was later cancelled due to funding constraints, so David used the scholarship to complete his first year of general studies to prepare for future studies in jazz music.

“The one thing I learned during my cancer experience was to not sweat the small stuff and to keep my eye on the big picture,” says David.

Like the 12-year-old boy, biding his time at the hospital, David is maintaining perspective, while waiting for a chance to formally study music and hone his skills as a jazz musician. He’s waiting for admission to the Berkley School of Music in Boston. Once again, it was Sadie who saw him through his audition at Berkley and, once again, when he is accepted, it will be Sadie he takes to Boston.