24 years ago, former pop-star Sarah Warwick was told she had an aggressive form of breast cancer and was given just 30% chance of recovery. Today, she’s survived breast cancer three times and is now a world-renowned sound healer

Pop star, singer-songwriter, sound-healer, facilitator, and teacher – the list goes on for Sarah Warwick. Known as Sarah Washington during her popstar days, the singer found herself smashing into the single’s charts in the 90s with her dance song and biggest hit, a cover of I Will Always Love You. It hasn’t been an easy journey though for the singer, who has battled and beaten breast cancer three times in her lifetime. Now, Sarah focuses her time on offering inspirational courses and retreats to help others, having transformed her life through songwriting, sound-healing and being immersed in nature.

Today we are sat in her peaceful garden in the sleepy hamlet of Keyhaven, surrounded by bird song, and just a few moments away from the quay.

Sarah, who grew up in London in the 1960s, was inspired by her dad to start singing and play the guitar.

Great British Life: Sarah has healed herself from breast cancer using sound (c) Mattea McKinnonSarah has healed herself from breast cancer using sound (c) Mattea McKinnon

‘My dad had a very beautiful voice and was on the Top of the Pop’s equivalent in those days called Top Numbers. He taught me to play the guitar and encouraged me to sing; we sang duets together. In the end his burgeoning popularity led to a nervous breakdown. Producers were approaching to offer opportunities, but he couldn’t cope with it all, and gave it up. My mother didn’t want me to become a singer because she’d been through that with my dad, and so she encouraged me to become a teacher. I was impressionable at the time, so I followed her guidance. My headteacher knew I was in a band and after a few years of teaching said, “you have to choose – is it teaching or music?” I was burning the candle at both ends. I just said – it’s music.’

Following her heart and leaving teaching behind, Sarah pursued her music career in her band, which received financing from an investor. ‘We were given a 48-track studio in the south of France to write and record songs and then recorded an album at the famous Genesis studio in the UK,’ remembers Sarah. Her voice teacher at this time was Helena Shenel who also coached Annie Lennox, Shirley Bassey, Peter Gabriel and George Michael.

During this time of writing and recording, Sarah was approached by a music manager who asked her to record a dance-cover of I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. She explains: ‘It was during the days when ballads were turned into dance songs and then became hits. I recorded it, forgot about it, and went to Ibiza to a shamanic retreat. I received a message by fax, and it said, “you have a hit on your hands, come home”. I came back and was singing live on Top of the Pops the next week. I was so excited! It was a major turning point.’

Great British Life: Sarah's garden in Keyhaven is a retreat from the stresses the day can bring (c) Mattea McKinnonSarah's garden in Keyhaven is a retreat from the stresses the day can bring (c) Mattea McKinnon

The single was a huge success and reached number 12 in the UK singles chart, and number 1 in the dance charts, catapulting Sarah into pop stardom. She then embarked on a whirlwind tour of concerts, TV, and radio including performing to 52,000 people at a Radio 1 Weekend, and she describes, ‘went from a shy young girl with a dream to living it. I had Annie Lennox hair – short and blonde, which was part of my image. I really enjoyed the dance diva thing. So, I followed it up with a George Michael track called Careless Whisper and was then signed by A&M records. I then spent 18 months of intensive songwriting with producer Tom Fredricks.’

Sarah went on to release two of her own songs Heaven and Everything, which went straight to number 1 in the Dance Charts and took her to the USA. She reminisces, ‘I did loads of fabulous gigs in the States. I didn’t even realise I had hits out there until I went! At the first gig the 3000 strong audience gave me a Mexican wave lasting five minutes!’

On Christmas Eve 1999, aged just 41, Sarah’s life was turned upside when she discovered she had an aggressive form of breast cancer and was given only a 30% chance of survival.

She shares: ‘I think I got completely exhausted by touring and not taking care of myself. Just before I found out I had cancer, I was drawn to do some training in sound healing, with a great Australian sound healer teacher called Chris James, who was a very inspiring character. I went to a concert and heard him perform. I thought it was amazing, as the sounds he made powerfully went straight to the heart. I thought - I could do that…so I trained with him. That was in September 1999. I started to run my own workshops – and then found out I had a very aggressive cancer. Little did I know then how much I would need the sound healing.’

She continues: ‘As the consultant was telling me I have the most aggressive form – you’re going to lose your hair, it will destroy your ovaries – there was a little voice inside, even though I was devastated, that said – don’t worry, we’re going to go on a big healing journey. That was the “still small voice” of my intuition and inner wisdom. And it was true, I was learning healing to heal myself and to help others at the same time. It was an extraordinary and challenging journey. I never felt like a victim, I never asked why me, even though it was hard. Against all the odds it feels like a miracle that I’m still standing!’

For Sarah, giving up was not an option, having for many years been on her own journey of self-development. She continued to write music and recorded an album of her self-penned healing songs called Pure Love, without the pressure from a label, manager, or the public. She describes the feeling of writing songs as very therapeutic and ‘it was as if they came through me’. The singer continued with sound healing and utilising her teaching knowledge to help others learn to use their voice and write their own songs.

Despite beating cancer the first time through a combination of chemotherapy and sound healing, Sarah was diagnosed again in 2005. She explains: ‘The first time I had all the treatments – they say if you reach five years, they think of you as cured. There is something about the five-year marker that can almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, five years later, almost to the date, I got it again in the same breast and had a mastectomy this time. Then, five years later, in 2010, it recurred in the other breast, and I was advised to have a second mastectomy, which I declined. The second and third time I was asked to have chemotherapy and I said no. I chose other forms of healing. It’s hard to say no to the medical treatment offered. It’s always a risk. If you choose to have it, it’s a risk, if you don’t, that’s also a risk. It’s about tuning in, doing your research, and trusting that inner voice, and that’s what my work is all about. Looking back, I can say I made good decisions, but it was pretty scary at the time.’

What is it that is so powerful about sound? Sarah explains: ‘Healing sound and singing is really important for the whole body, mind and spirit. It boosts your immune system. It is a whole-body experience and affects us on a cellular level. The body is about 70% water, and water is a great carrier of sound – whether it is beautiful, inharmonious, or conscious. Healing sound is aimed at rebalancing and helps us clear blocked emotions, which when stuck, can create pain and inflammation – if we stuff our emotions and feelings and trauma down often enough, it can manifest into a disease. Sound and singing can be a part of helping to clear energy, rebalance and integrate ourselves.

Sarah’s lifelong experiences of songwriting and healing gave birth to her company, Lifesong. One of the courses she offers includes One Year of Songwriting - an opportunity to write songs to connect and communicate deeply with your inner creative. Sarah describes the process: ‘The year culminates in a recording studio where we record a whole album of unique songs written by each member of the group. It’s the most empowering thing, to connect with what you need to say, tell your story, record it and share it – and then give it to the world. I work with anyone, including people with absolutely no musical experience. I have discovered everyone has songs inside them. I trust they are there for a reason.’

Sarah also runs retreats in the UK and overseas and has been flown all over the world to lead singing at business conferences. She said: ‘Conferences often have an icebreaker to help people relax and connect to themselves and each other. I’d go in, maybe with a drummer, get them dancing – get them singing; it’s great fun. I always feel utterly confident I can change a room’s energy through sound and song.’

Great British Life: Sarah now hosts workshops and retreats to share her teachings with others (c) Mattea McKinnonSarah now hosts workshops and retreats to share her teachings with others (c) Mattea McKinnon

Life has undoubtedly been an incredible journey for Sarah and it’s evident her path will continue to flow in the direction of supporting others through her talents and experiences.

Throughout our conversation, her calm and thoughtful demeanour represents the inner peace she has clearly found through the highs and lows. With the air bathed in birdsong and the hum of nature surrounding Sarah’s garden, it is as if we are being reminded of the importance of stopping, being still and connecting.

She shares: ‘To me the most important thing is about connection – connection to each other, our body, to our intuition, to life, to nature. To inspire.’

To find out more about Sarah’s workshops, courses and retreats go to lifesong.co.uk