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Pop singer dies after valiant battle with cystic fibrosis
By Becky Barrow
(Filed: 08/03/2003)

The pop singer Alice Martineau, who suffered from cystic fibrosis, has died aged 30, ending a remarkable life distinguished by "a burning desire to beat the unbeatable".

Throughout her life doctors regularly predicted her death, but she proved them all wrong, gaining a first-class degree at university and launching a sucessful modelling and singing career. Miss Martineau, whose debut single and album were released to critical acclaim last year, died at home in Kensington, west London.

Cystic fibrosis, Britain's most common genetically inherited disease, affects most of the organs, particularly the lungs and the pancreas, by clogging them with thick, sticky mucus.

Last year Miss Martineau wrote a moving article in The Daily Telegraph's Saturday magazine about the wait for a life-saving triple transplant. It provided a rare insight into the way in which the incurable disease intruded upon every part of her life - something she rarely talked about.

"Even now, I don't think of myself as being all that ill, but I suppose that I am," She wrote. "I am attached to a machine that gives oxygen to me day and night. I only digest about two thirds of what I eat so I also have a tube in my stomach. I have to have three lots of chest physiotherapy a day. I also have a 14-day course of intravenous antibiotics once a month. I also have to swallow about 40 pills a day.

"Despite all this, I still tell myself that I am not ill - but someone is trying very hard to tell me the opposite."

More than anything, Miss Martineau hated to be described as "brave", a word that many people could not help but use. She insisted on singing, modelling and partying despite the physiotherapy, heavy medication and frequent long stays in hospital.

The day after her article appeared in The Daily Telegraph magazine, Miss Martineau's manager, Phil Long, approached Sony Music with a demo tape with four of her songs. She was quickly signed up. Her first album, Daydreams, was released in November, with all 11 songs written and performed by her. On the album cover she urged people to carry a donor card.

Yesterday Sony paid tribute to "an amazing individual who lived a life that was fuelled with a passion to fulfil her dreams and a burning desire to beat the unbeatable".

An hour-long documentary, The Nine Lives of Alice MArtineau, has recently been completed and will be broadcast by the BBC before Easter.

Miss Martineau once said: "The last thing I want is for people to see me as a victim. And really, as I hope people will realise when they hear the music, I am a singer-songwriter who just happens to be ill."

She remained hopeful that she would eventually receive a heart, lung and liver transplant that would transform her life. "I think about all the wonderful things I will be able to do, focusing on the 'will be able' rather than the 'might be able' to try to boost my morale during my inevitable dark moments," she wrote.

Her singing was a form of escapism, a way of forgetting about the machines in her bedroom. "I can make believe that I am fit and healthy. It is the thought of what I might be able to achieve after my transplant that will help get me through it...my name in lights...being up on stage...winning my first award...and the applause...I get quite carried away sometimes, and then I wake up."

She refused to let her illness get in the way. Her friend, Charlotte Walker, recalled how she used to join hands with Alice at school sports day to make sure neither of them crossed the finishing line last in the running race.

Hundreds of people paid tribute to Miss Martineau on her website yesterday, including many fellow CF sufferers who said her singing career and determination had been an inspiration to all of them.

  • To register as an organ donor, go to www.nhsorgandonor.net or telephone 0845 60 60 400.