The toll cancer was taking on friends, and her own spirit, started to wear on Corinne Damerau-Best.
So the music teacher and singer shook off the blues by going back to the recording studio to do what she loves.
The result is "Embrace Yourself," a 10-track compact disc of songs written by Damerau-Best and performed with longtime friends from the Western New York music scene, including Mary Ramsey of John & Mary and 10,000 Maniacs, Joe Rozler of the Party Squad, and Buffalo Sabres organist and commercial jingle writer Ken Kaufman.
The record, which Damerau-Best describes as an eclectic mix of contemporary pop and blues songs, is availble for $2.50 in the Roswell Park Cancer Institute gift shop. Proceeds will be donated to Roswell Park.
Damerau-Best, who has taught at Nichols Middle School for 13 years, initiated the project a year ago while on sabbatical.
She had just lost Adrienne Zimba, who had been her "second mother" when Damerau-Best was growing up in Angola, to cancer. Another friend was waging her second fight against the disease, and Gyda Higgins, a colleague of Damerau-Best at Nichols, was in the final months of a seven-year struggle with breast cancer.
All had received treatment at Roswell Park, where Damerau-Best's school chorus performs for patients and staff every year during the holiday season. Making an album, she decided, would let her use her talents to pay tribute to her friends and raise funds for the hospital at the same time.
"That way, maybe I could make a difference," she thought.
Damerau-Best, who paid her way through the Fredonia State College music program in the 1970s by performing as a vocalist with Night Music and Ars Nova, asked a number of friends in the music world to pitch in. In addition to Ramsey, Rozler and Kaufman, musicians John Caruso, Chris and Mark Panfil, Sam Tambe and Pamicka Marinello, a Nichols junior and cellist, answered the call. So did sound engineer and producer Armand Petri and photographer Andrea Mancuso, a Nichols teacher.
"It was just a talented group of people," said Damerau-Best, who wrote the music and lyrics.
Recorded at the Fun House studio in Silver Creek, "Embrace Yourself" was completed in October.
Damerau-Best hopes to raise $5,000 for the hospital.
"My little contribution may not seem like much in the scheme of things, but it's my way of giving back," she said.
For more information about "Embrace Yourself," visit firstname.lastname@example.org.