Coping With Music
Last updated: January 2023
Music has always been an integral part of my life. Even as a baby, my parents said I was always dancing and bouncing whenever there was a tune playing. As I got older, music was how I worked through teenage angst, my first crush, my first breakup, celebrations, and deep loss.
No matter the mood or occasion, I've always had a knack for finding songs and melodies that resonated with what I was experiencing. This has held true throughout my entire cancer story as well.
The soundtrack to my (cancer) life
One of the first things I asked my husband to bring to the hospital once I was assigned a room was my big noise-canceling headphones. Between the immense pain, fear, and all the other sights and sounds that fill a busy room, I needed an escape.
To cope with the pain and nausea, I would listen to meditative sounds and do deep breathing. When I was receiving a scary diagnosis or prognosis news, I would turn on angry rock and roll as soon as the staff left. I would often hum ABBA (specifically "Lay All Your Love on Me") when I was getting blood drawn or IV placements. It helped me focus on something other than the multiple sticks and digging for a vein.
I'll always remember the staff blasting Top 40 for me when I was stuck in the MRI machine for 2 hours and the awesome surgeon who played 70s disco when doing my third nephrostomy placement.
Soft music let me block out the beeps and hums of machines so I could sleep. And on long nights when the dark thoughts would creep into my mind, songs of hope would help me dry my tears. Through all my cancer stories, I have a few standout moments and their corresponding songs to share.
Getting out of my head
After my radical cystectomy, I was sent home with a month's worth of Lovenox shots that I needed to give to myself. This was to prevent blood clots post-surgery. Well, if you know me, I hate needles.
The idea of poking myself was a huge mental hurdle to get over. I remember sobbing each time just from the anxiety. Well, I can thank Ms. Taylor Swift for giving me the shove to get over my anxiety and get it done. I remember playing her song, "You Need to Calm Down," each and every time I gave myself a shot.
Three years later, I still laugh anytime it plays.
Songs are a point of reflection now
Before I checked into my second hospital, where I would ultimately receive surgery and my treatment, I got to spend a night at home with my family.
For some wild reason, we decided to watch Mama Mia. The entire week before surgery, I played ABBA songs on repeat, but I specifically remember singing "I Have a Dream" in my head the entire time I was being wheeled back for surgery.
I continued even when a wonderful surgery tech held my hand, and the anesthesiologist knocked me out. It gave me a great amount of comfort and peace. Unfortunately, I can't stand to play that song now. It definitely induces the waterworks.
I made it
My absolute favorite song and moment happened just a few weeks ago. Pan!c at the Disco has a really fun song called "Hey Look Ma I Made It."
I remember listening to this song on my way to almost all of my treatments and scans. I would dream and hope that one day I could shout it out because I had "made it" and beat cancer. Well, my husband and I bought tickets to go see them live in concert. I bought a fancy outfit and looked forward to the day with much anticipation. Why? Because that same morning, I would find out from my oncologist if I had hit the threshold of being cancer free long enough to stop treatment.
Well, I did, and we decided to pause treatment and see if I could stay cancer-free without it. I had the opportunity to sing at the top of my lungs at the concert "Hey Look Ma, I MADE IT!" It was an incredible full-circle moment of being able to realize a hope I had 3 years prior.
It seems my entire life has had a backing track, and music has truly helped me through the highest highs and lowest lows. Do you have any power anthems or special songs from your cancer journey?
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?