Many people know how precious life is... but after cancer, we really do
The Alarm’s Mike Peters was battling leukaemia when his wife Jules was told she had breast cancer. The couple tell MARION McMULLEN how they’ve faced the tough times together and come through
‘WE ARE both cancer survivors,” says Mike Peters simply, as he recalls the moment he and his wife Jules discovered she had breast cancer.
The BBC was filming a documentary with The Alarm’s frontman about his own battle with leukaemia when Jules received the devastating news.
“The documentary had a working title of Being Mike Peters and then Jules was diagnosed as I was by her side,” recalls Mike.
“She bravely decided to let the cameras film her experience and tell the woman’s side of the story of dealing with the treatment and surgery and the cameras became a bit like a therapist in a way.”
Jules says poignantly: “I was diagnosed two years ago on July 4, Independence Day, and I always say that was the moment I lost my independence.”
The documentary, While We Still Have Time, provoked a huge reaction went it was shown on BBC Wales and it went on to be repeated on BBC2 and BBC1.
Now the couple are bringing their story up-to-date with new BBC documentary The Next Step, to be broadcast on August 6.
Mike says music helped him confront his fears and worries during the dark times when Jules was undergoing treatment.
“I couldn’t express myself the normal way and when Jules was having radiation, chemotherapy or surgery I would be pacing the corridors of the hospital thinking ‘What’s happening to us?’
“The only way I could put these emotions into context was to type everything I was feeling; just this mass of words into my phone.
“Jules would be in surgery for eight hours and I would be terrified. Scared for my wife and kids.
“When Jules read it all, she said that should be the beginning of your music, that’s the next record.”
New album Equals is a poignant reflection of the tough times Mike and Jules have both been through.
Mike himself recovered from lymph cancer in 1996 and was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia in 2005. After an initial recovery, he suffered a relapse in 2015.
Jules, who plays piano and sings backing vocals with The Alarm, says: “There were times I would be sitting by his hospital bed not knowing if he was going to make it and thinking ‘this is it’ and about our baby at home” – the couple have two sons Dylan and Evan.
All band activity was put on hold as the pair underwent treatment and it is only now, with both in remission, that The Alarm are firing on all cylinders again.
“The songs were built out of what I had become,” says 59-yearold Mike. “I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with Jules, and it’s all there in the music.
“I didn’t set out to write about what we were going through.”
The couple met when Jules was a 19-year-old university student and Mike smiles as he recalls: “She did not know me, or the band or the music we played and that was really refreshing. One of the first times she saw The Alarm play was when we supported U2 at Cardiff Arms Park in 1987.
“I was so nervous about having her backstage with me. I remember we were standing at the side of the stage watching U2 and the Edge was playing a long solo.
“Bono just came over to us, put his arms around Jules and gave her a kiss on the forehead and went back on stage.
“He’s always remained a good friend and he’s still the same. What you see is what you get.”
Bono was among the first to offer his support when Jules was told she had cancer and the couple recently went to see him and U2 in concert in LA.
Jules admits emotions will be running high and there are likely to be a few tears when the new documentary is broadcast next month.
“I’m starting to choke up just talking about it,” she admits. “It’s been a gruelling two years. It’s not been easy and there have been meltdowns.
“I’d been exposed to cancer because of Mike, but it’s been a massive learning curve for me.
“I’ve always been a positive person, but the treatment and hospital visits become the norm and it is only now that it is no longer my norm.
“I think the hardest part of the treatment was losing my hair. It’s such a big part of your femininity and sexuality and I felt miserable.
“I’d wake up in the morning and have to drag myself out of bed. I’d be like ‘I don’t feel like going to the recording studio today you go without me.’ But Mike would get me there saying ‘You’re coming with me in the morning so sort yourself out’.”
She laughs: “It was the right way to manage me. I would be swearing like a trouper, but I’d get there.”
Formed in 1981 in the Welsh seaside resort of Rhyl, the original band of The Alarm featured Mike, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald and Nigel Twist.
The band went on to sell six
million albums while clocking up 17 top 50 singles in the UK including tracks like Sixty Eight Guns, The Stand and Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?.
After an emotional swansong at London’s Brixton Academy in 1991, the original members went their separate ways, with Mike launching a solo career and joining forces with Billy Duffy in a short-lived band called Coloursøund.
The lingering allure of his old group, however, proved hard to resist and Mike entered a new millennium back at the helm of The Alarm, who will be touring the UK this autumn and there are already plans to release another new album before the end of the year.
Mike says: “The turbulence of the last few years has shaken The Alarm’s world to its core but we have survived the challenges and are now ready for the next steps, which is performing the music live with our fans adding to the experience.
“Myself and the band are primed and ready to give everything we have to make this year a life-affirming experience for all our fans.”
Jules points out: “Mike is eight years older than me and I’ve always looked at him for guidance.
“There was no room in his psyche for moaning or whining about his cancer.
“I lived with the scary situation with Mike for a long time and I think we both now have a extra zest for life. Many people know how precious life is ... but we really do.”
Equals (pictured left) is out now through The Twenty First Century Recording Company (manufactured and distributed by InGrooves). Go to thealarm.com for more details.
Mike and Jules Peters Picture by Arwyn Roberts
Bono (centre) with Jules, Mike, Dylan and Evan