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Corey Hart serenades Wolfville woman with cancer

Best friends Michelle Belliveau and Jackie Koszucki, both Wolfville residents, watch as Canadian pop superstar Corey Hart serenades them during a surprise performance of “I Am By Your Side” that was arranged as a special shout-out to Koszucki, who is battling breast cancer.
Best friends Michelle Belliveau and Jackie Koszucki, both Wolfville residents, watch as Canadian pop superstar Corey Hart serenades them during a surprise performance of “I Am By Your Side” that was arranged as a special shout-out to Koszucki, who is battling breast cancer. - Contributed

‘It will give me courage to go on’

HALIFAX, N.S. —

Two best buds wearing their sunglasses at night had no idea they’d soon be wiping tears from their eyes next to Corey Hart.

Michelle Belliveau and Jackie Koszucki watched the Canadian superstar rock out 10 rows away on a Halifax stage June 4.

Seats on the floor. 80s getups. Uninhibited grooving.

With their eyes fixed on the ‘80s heartthrob from Belliveau’s first live concert as teen, thoughts of what ailed them vanished. Their minds were transfixed, automatically recalling lyrics that flowed freely from their lips.

But Belliveau had a little surprise lined up for her bestie.

And Corey Hart had a big surprise for them both.

It was their last girls’ night out before Koszucki learns the next course of action in her breast cancer treatment.

About 30 minutes into the concert, a Hart staffer found the pair in the crowd, tapped them on the shoulder and motioned for them to follow.

An ecstatic Belliveau started to suspect that her best friend might get more than the shout-out she secretly requested through Hart’s Facebook page the previous night.

The options raced through her mind.

Were they checking for the pronunciation of Koszucki? Maybe they arranged for a ‘this one goes out to Jackie’ shout-out coupled with a high-fives-for-the-fangirls moment?

“I said, ‘I don’t know if you get these messages but if you end up singing “I Am By Your Side,” just know that it’s special for us because I’ll always be by hers, and we’ll be singing every word right along with you,’” says Belliveau.

“I kind of thought that maybe that might be enough to get her a shout-out.”

Turns out, it was more than enough.

Hart’s team revealed they had a surprise lined up for the duo hours before the concert, but that’s all Belliveau knew.

They were led to chairs close to a secondary stage at the back, where a piano was located.

Michelle Belliveau and Jackie Koszucki, both Wolfville residents, were in for the surprise of a lifetime at the Corey Hart concert in Halifax June 4. CONTRIBUTED
Michelle Belliveau and Jackie Koszucki, both Wolfville residents, were in for the surprise of a lifetime at the Corey Hart concert in Halifax June 4. CONTRIBUTED

“We were thinking, oh my gosh - look how close we are. We’re essentially right beside the stage to watch him sing,” recalls Belliveau.

Hart sang two songs for his wife in honour of her birthday, then announced that he’d be playing a song they didn’t originally have on the setlist for the show.

The besties from Wolfville were called to the stage.

Hart greeted them warmly. Hugs. Handshakes. Kisses on the cheek.

And then, for a brief moment, the spotlight shone on Koszucki.

“He then handed me the microphone to tell my story and so I did that very briefly because people didn’t come to see me and hear all about my woes,” she says.

She told thousands of fans that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, forcing an early end to the Brazilian vacation she was taking with her recently retired husband. She confided that treatment could include radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy, but that remains to be seen.

“I didn’t even think about all of those people. It was just me, and my bestie, and Corey,” she says.

And then Hart played “I Am By Your Side.”

The 53-year-old admits she had a hard time keeping it together while she sat by the piano with “the best BFF a girl could ask for.”

“Sitting up there, feet away from him, and he’s singing this song and he puts my name in and he finishes it off with ‘we are by your side,’” she says, choking up.

“He’s such a compassionate, warm, kind, loving man. It makes you proud to be Canadian.”

She struggles to find the words to express what it was like to be on the stage with Hart.

“Surreal” comes to mind.

“We sat there, me with my head on her shoulder, crying, arms around each other and just watching this incredible, talented man sing this song for me.”

Koszucki noticed that people she didn’t even know were moved to tears along with her.

“As we walked away, people were clapping,” she says.

Belliveau left the stage in awe.

“I got my cheeks kissed and a hug from my fangirl 1985 crush,” she recalls with a laugh.

“It was just so amazing, so memorable and I cannot believe the lengths that they went to to do something so special for Jackie.”

Jackie Koszucki of Wolfville, right, was invited to share a few words about her journey with breast cancer on stage at the Corey Hart concert in Halifax June 4. CONTRIBUTED

She’s thrilled to have been a part of making that highlight-reel memory happen for someone who has been there for her through thick and thin for more than 15 years.

“Thank you isn’t even an adequate enough word, to make that night for her just so amazing and one day that is just a little less daunting in the journey that she’s facing,” says Belliveau.

Hart, reached through his Facebook page, saw the message Belliveau sent in hours before his Never Surrender Tour brought him to the Scotiabank Centre.

“It really touched me – how they were both best friends (for years) and “I Am By Your Side” was their go-to song in times of trouble and strife – Jackie’s battle against breast cancer and her best friend by her side no matter what. That’s what music is all about – empowerment,” wrote Hart.

“I included the song in the setlist at the last moment because I wanted them to know how much their letter meant to me. She’s got this!”

Koszucki is awaiting the results of genetic testing for confirmation that chemotherapy is a viable treatment option for her tumour.
“It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. You have highs and then you have the lows, but you can’t let yourself get stuck in that because that’s not healthy and it’s not going to change what’s happening to you,” she says, adding that she’s happy to share her story if it might inspire others in similar circumstances.

“It’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to be emotional. It is what it is.”

The retired school secretary has George - her husband of 28 years, and their 22-year-old son, Roman, to lean on when times get tough.

She has Belliveau, of course.

And now, she has incredible memories of an amazing night at a Corey Hart concert.

“It gives you courage. On those days that I’m down, I will look back at that. It will give me courage to go on,” she says, briefly pausing to regain composure.

“Never surrender.”

About breast cancer:

  • A persistent, hard lump is the most common symptom of ductal carcinoma. The lumps are more often described as tender than painful.
  • The most documented symptom of lobular carcinoma is the feeling of breast tissue thickening or getting harder. More often than not, this type of breast cancer does not result in the formation of a lump.
  • The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 26,300 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. In the same year, the society says breast cancer claimed the lives of 5,000 women.
  • The disease is less common in men. In 2017, 230 men were diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 died as a result of the disease.
  • The chances of successfully treating breast cancer improve with early detection. It is recommended that individuals between the ages of 4049 reach out to a doctor for guidance regarding screening mammography. Folks in the 50-74 age range are urged to go for mammograms every two years. Seniors aged 75 and older are advised to consult a physician to see if it’s the right option for them.

Source: Canadian Cancer Society

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