Ali at her swim lesson today with her "swim fin"...
"I get paid to play and pray."
That's my mantra as a music therapist working in a hospital with cancer patients. I left my second day back at the hospital on cloud 9 today after spending the day with some of the most inspiring, courageous people around: cancer patients. Cancer is such a paradox; we declare war on it, yet it is our very own cells, and thus, we declare war on ourselves.
I just finished reading, "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer," by Siddhartha Mukherjee. What a seminal piece of work. Sobering, and not for the faint-hearted; it traces cancer's journey through history, going back 4,000 years to the first documented case of a breast tumor by the great Egyptian physician, Imhotep. The journey winds through the Holmes/Watson/Clouseau-like investigation of cancer of the 19th and 20th centuries before culminating with the development of the Cancer Genome Project. The Cancer Genome Project has a pretty straightforward description of the process the makes cancer, and I include it here as an educational moment! Parenthetical explanations are include by yours truly...
All cancers occur due to abnormalities in (our) DNA sequence. Throughout life, the genome ('catalog' of ALL our hereditary information) within the cells of (our) body is exposed to mutagens (any physical or chemical 'agent' that changes the genetic material within the genome) and suffers mistakes in replication. These corrosive influences result in progressive, subtle divergence of the DNA sequence in each cell. Occasionally, one of these cellular mutations alters the function of a critical gene, providing a growth advantage to the cell in which it has occurred and resulting in the emergence of an 'expanded' (read:overactive... replicating faster than 'typical') clone derived from this cell. Acquisition of additional mutations, and consequent waves of clonal expansion result in the evolution of the mutinous cells that invade surrounding tissues and metastasise (spread to non-adjacent organs or regions of the body).
One in three people in the Western world develop cancer and one in five die of the disease. Cancer is therefore the commonest genetic disease. - The Sanger Institute
I think this description hits home the fact that cancer lies in our very genes. It is inside us, not outside us. The outside can and does influence the inside, but cancer is a part of the very foundation of who we are. Anyhow, bringing an old friend like music to visit patients battling this paradox is just about the best thing I can think to do with my time on this planet. The laughter, joy, smiles, release, and peace that I witness across patients' faces and bodies during and after music therapy tells me that they really appreciate the visit by their old friend music.
I could gush on and on about this topic, but I'll cut it short tonight as I have a BUNCH of work due tomorrow for other projects and I need to get crackin'! However, I will say that if you or someone you know and love is going through cancer treatment, ask them if they have an mp3 player to take with them to their treatments. If they don't, you can get them outfitted HERE for roughly $20.
Even something as "small" as 2GB of storage holds between 450-600 songs. If you average 10 songs a record, that's 45-60 records. I don't know about you, but that's a lot of music to me. Point being, research shows that when you decrease stress, and increase relaxation, your immune system works better. Make a relaxation playlist (I probably had between 10 and 20 in Bella's room) and have them listen to it on the way and during their treatment. It's a good start.
Lastly, if you live in the Los Angeles area, my dear friend Sara Dee is having a CD release party tomorrow night at the Room 5 Lounge (143 N. La Brea - second floor)
from 10pm-1am. Sara was gracious enough to play at Bella's Birthday Bash, and she is an AMAZING musician. I will be there supporting her tomorrow night, and I hope you can come out and listen to some "feisty folk" music with me!