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“The Encore” a heartwarming tale of determination – The Denver Post

"The Encore" by Charity Tillemann-Dick

Atria Books

“The Encore” by Charity Tillemann-Dick

“The Encore” by Charity Tillemann-Dick

The performance is electrifying.  Soprano Charity Tillemann-Dick hits high C, and the audience breaks into applause. Tillemann-Dick has just completed her lifetime dream of debuting at Lincoln Center, and the reception is overwhelming, as the soprano, only in her mid-20s, takes bow after bow.

The 2011 debut is the greatest performance of her young life. Jessye Norman takes her hand and mutters, “Miraculous.  Spectacular.”  Triumphantly, Tillemann-Dick leaves the stage — and collapses into a wheelchair.  Her brothers and sisters quickly adjust the IV that is hidden under her dress.

Two days later, she is in a Cleveland clinic waiting for a lung transplant, her second.  Without it, she will die.

“The Encore” is the story of Tillemann-Dick’s rise to operatic heights and her struggle to beat the disease that threatens to kill her. What might have been a dreary recitation of tedious medical procedures is instead a heartwarming tale of courage and determination.  With the support of her family, her boyfriend, and dozens of doctors, nurses and medical technicians, Tillemann-Dick struggles to stay alive while at the same time achieving the stardom she has sought since childhood.

Tillemann-Dick grew up in North Denver, with 11 siblings and a variety of relatives, pets and visitors.  Home-schooled, the children were high achievers, and Tillemann-Dick herself graduated from Regis while still in her teens.  At the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, where she studied singing, she writes, she was plagued by weakness and fainting spells and decided to take a year off to become a Mormon missionary.  During a physical required for the mission, she was diagnosed with a rare form of pulmonary hypertension. There were only 7,000 cases of the disease in the world, and without a lung transplant, she would be lucky to live five years.

The diagnosis is devastating, but Tillemann-Dick is determined not only to fight for her life but also to continue singing — something a doctor warns could hasten her death. Equally determined is the singer’s family.  Siblings put their lives on hold to care for her and accompany her to performances, and her mother becomes her tireless champion.  When the singer has her first lung transplant, her mother becomes Tillemann-Dick’s advocate, making decisions with doctors and overseeing medical care, sleeping for months in her daughter’s hospital room.

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