Singing for life

Family sings for life of loved one

BY PRISCILLA LOEBENBERG – Publishing in the Carroll County Times

Belting out a heartrending rendition of Journey’s “Faithfully,” Ray Blair kicked off a fundraiser to help pay for his wife’s cancer treatments Saturday at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster.

The “Hope for Clare” event came just one week after the couple’s 19th wedding anniversary. He had prepared the song as a surprise for his wife, Clare Blair, whom he said was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in July. But, after a bad night at home, Clare was not able to attend.

Ray said Steve Perry and Journey are so much Clare’s favorite music, that she hasn’t allowed him to sing the song to her in the past.

The performance he gave, those in attendance agreed, would have made her proud.

Ray said Clare had been ill often for more than two years, but was never diagnosed with cancer until she went to see a doctor about severe stomach pain last summer. The cancer, he said, had already spread to her lungs, brain and lymph nodes.

Although the five-year survival rates for breast cancer this advanced is only about 22 percent, according to the American Cancer Society; Ray, his friends and family are wholly focused on Clare’s chances for recovery.

In addition to chemotherapy, Clare is also seeing a holistic doctor and is taking mistletoe injections and other alternative treatments. The money raised at Saturday’s event will be used to help pay for the holistic treatments not covered by insurance.

Her supporters have been encouraged by an improvement following the removal of the cancer in her lymph nodes in November.

“Between all our prayers and the treatments, we are hoping the doctors are wrong,” said Linda Millward.

“I’m grateful everyone is coming together to help.” Millward and her sister, Brenda Keirle, put together a bake sale as part of the fundraiser.

Ray said he was most grateful for the help of his 13-year-old daughter Emily.

In addition to caring for his wife and daughter, Ray works at Random House and performs with the band Ourglass Project, which played at the fundraiser.

“Emily is my little nurse,” he said. Ray’s mother, Joanne Hohman, said Emily gives her mom injections, feeds her and cares for her when needed.

“With the help of God, family and friends, we are keeping it together,” said Hohman. “We are a tight family.” They are also a very musical family, which is why they chose to put on a fundraiser that included several bands. Ray’s brothers, nephew and daughter were all scheduled to perform at the 6-hour event. Bands included Ram Cat Alley, Calling Lincoln, Drop 42 and Matt Collins.

Hohman also reached out to Mike Nesmith, of The Monkees, and his son, Christian Nesmith, who is also a musician and producer.

A video of Circe Link and the younger Nesmith singing “Sunday Driving (Feel Better Version)” was dedicated to Clare and posted on YouTube.

Emily said she enjoys playing the guitar as a way to relieve stress. She particularly enjoys songs by Jesus Culture. Helping care for her mother is another activity that she said makes her feel better.

“Mom said I have been her comfort, but she has been mine,” said Emily.