Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009

'Singing helps my lung problem'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News


Joe Dexter's single "Standing still"

Joe Dexter describes his band, Orange, as "Green Day meets The Cure".

He wrote his first single at just 13 and three years later the American-based band had their first recording deal.

Now, still aged just 21, British-born Joe has released his third album and finished a tour.

His achievements are remarkable by any musical standards, but are even more so when you learn that Joe, who is the lead singer, has the lung condition cystic fibrosis - as well as asthma and diabetes.

"It never stops me from doing my music or pursuing any dreams I might have," he said.

I do personally think that doing something like singing, which is a vocal and breathing exercise, is actually beneficial to your lungs
Joe Dexter

And Joe even feels that being a singer might help him.

"I always find after a good hour or more of singing my lungs are a lot clearer and I can breathe easier.

"Maybe I've found the miracle treatment for cystic fibrosis!"

Joe takes a host of treatments every day including six tablets with every meal to help him digest his food, antibiotics three times a week to kill infections, and multi-vitamins.

He also takes daily drugs to control his diabetes and asthma.


Caroline Elston, an expert in respiratory medicine at London's Kings College Hospital, agrees that singing professionally can have positive benefits.

"There are a number of patients with cystic fibrosis who have gone into singing professionally," she said.

"There is nothing to suggest it would do any harm and lots of theoretical reasons why it would do good.

"Professional singers train their breathing muscles and there should be some benefits in this."

Orange were still at school when they got together

Research has suggested that singing might be beneficial in other lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Ms Elston said.

But she warned: "The downsides would be related to the time it takes to tour and the toll on the body, the physical exhaustion and [difficulty of] fitting the treatments in.

"It is finding a balance between the singing, the treatments and the touring."

Joe Dexter agrees: "It is more of a challenge though, especially when it comes to touring.

"Doing something so physically demanding every night on top of having to deal with taking care of my lungs can be quite challenging."

'Living my dream'

"After most tours I end up in hospital," the singer admitted.

"A lot of times when my friends and band mates are smoking, drinking and partying, I'll be in my hotel room doing my treatments.

"Having cystic fibrosis affects everything I do, every day. My doctors are amazed that I seem to be capable of doing what I do. They often call me a 'medical mystery'.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) affects more than 8,000 people in the UK and is the commonest inherited disease
It is estimated about five babies are born with CF each week in the UK
It 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

"But I always try to take care of my health the best that I can and sometimes that can be limiting especially when it comes to touring.

"I use a lot of alternative remedies such as Bach flower essences and I also do Reiki on myself pretty regularly."

Joe, who has been based in the US for 17 years, said: "I have never let having cystic fibrosis stop me from living my dream and I want to play music for the rest of my life. I will never let my health stop me.

"You need to truly believe in yourself because there are always people around who say you should not really do that and you can't do that, but I have never listened to that and so far I am ok and still doing it.

"You just have to believe in yourself and be really positive.

"If you go by text books I probably shouldn't be able to do what I do.

"I plan to keep on surprising people for as long as I can."

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