As the youngest of 10 siblings in a musical family, Mary LaFrance grew up surrounded by melodies. She began singing when she was 4, and performing with her family in church when she was 5.
“It’s been a huge chunk of my life,” she said.
On Saturday, LaFrance will perform her first solo concert at Bethel Community Church, 1438 “B” St., in Washougal. The concert, which begins at 6 p.m., is free. Donations are being accepted to help LaFrance pay for musical expenses and help the church purchase new sound equipment.
She will be selling her 2009 album “Leap of Faith,” which includes eight songs she wrote herself, for $15.
LaFrance draws most of her inspiration from her faith in God, her family and her experience surviving breast cancer.
After she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, LaFrance underwent two surgeries, 18 months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation. But she was extremely fortunate, she says.
“I was never sick from it,” she said. “I never spent a day in bed.”
She had a double mastectomy in May 2011 when doctors found cells that had the potential of becoming cancerous. She figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Something said — this is my best option,'” she said.
Now in remission, LaFrance, who works in the office at Washougal High School, has appeared as a motivational speaker for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and loves to help other women by sharing her story.
“I’ve learned to appreciate the gifts God gave me,” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate a second chance.”
She also used the experience to strengthen her music.
One of her songs, titled “She is a Warrior,” is dedicated to all women who have survived breast cancer and those who did not. But it really is applicable to every woman, she said.
The inspiration for her album came at an unexpected time. It was 2 a.m., six months after her first surgery in 2005 when she awoke for no apparent reason.
She could not shake the idea “leap of faith,” from her mind and was unable to go back to sleep. So, she sat down at her computer, turned it on and typed out the song lyrics that she had envisioned. Thirty-two minutes later, she had the lyrics complete, and the music came right after.
“It was like I had the melody in my head,” LaFrance said.
In less than 90 minutes, she had the title song of her future album completed.
Her brain did not have much better timing with the other songs she wrote for the CD.
“2 a.m. seems to be the hour of inspiration for me,” she said.
Her CD came out in 2009 with eight songs she had written herself.
She will be performing some of these songs at her concert.
LaFrance resisted the idea of a solo performance for a long time, before friends and members of her church urged her to go for it.
She has prepared a slideshow presentation to go along with her music, with pictures of places and people that have influenced the songs.
LaFrance will also show off her aptitude for instruments by accompanying herself with the guitar for a few songs. Local singer Ann Jendro will join LaFrance for a couple songs.
The concert will be a joyful experience, she said.
“I think everyone will go away with happiness.”