Singing Your Way to Health and Healing

Singing during or after cancer treatment may be very beneficial.

I love music and personally feel that playing an instrument or singing is an intimate and personal expression of the heart. Listening to music can be a way to connect with oneself, but it also can help calm or stimulate the brain and nervous system, depending what you listen to. As a parent, I was aware that children who learn to play music can benefit from learning to be more focused, and it can stimulate brain activity that may enhance the ability to perform better academically. Both of my children have had the privilege of music lessons — one learned to play the violin and the other plays the guitar and piano. I’m grateful to have supported these endeavors. I have seen both of my children thrive, partly due to extracurricular activities that include learning the gift of music.

While I recently enjoyed tuning in for my own health after hearing the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, it was an invitation to join a group of fellow cancer survivors who sing locally that sparked my interest in learning more about music and the therapeutic benefit it can provide in healing from cancer.

Earlier this year, I was asked to provide a private group yoga class for a local choir. The lovely group is an all-female group of cancer survivors who practice, perform and sing in Miami. In October, I had the pleasure of hearing the choir sing at an annual banquet for breast cancer survivors.

The Heroines Choir in Miami has been performing for nearly five years. According to one member, they initially formed to be part of a musical production, but instead have been singing for audiences at events ranging from cancer walks to halftime performances for local sports teams such as the Miami Heat. The Heroines Choir proudly dresses in pink capes and black shirts with a personal logo on it. They strut their stuff not only to capture attention, but as one member shared, also to find support, camaraderie and feel the singing as it promotes healing and positive coping during and after a cancer diagnosis. The group is cheerful and upbeat, singing with background music to popular songs such as "Brave" which invokes inspiration, a sense of hope and determination to surpass obstacles. One member believes that singing can boost the immune system, and we both agree that it can help people cope with feelings of depression or anxiety.

From a therapeutic standpoint, there is new emerging research promoting the benefits for singing as a tool for healing during cancer, but more research may be needed to effectively document all the therapeutic benefits which may be associated with being part of a choir during and after cancer.

In April of 2016, many articles came out about one such study supporting the positive influence of being in a choir to promote healing. The study investigated the benefits of members of a choir in South Wales called "Sing with Us." Findings suggest that members of the choir are experiencing the benefits of a boosted immune system due to their involvement of being in the choir. Researchers believe that more studies over a longer time frame are needed, but feel good about the current results.

My thoughts are not to wait for research to tell us what all the health benefits of being part of a choir might include, but rather feel if singing improves mood during treatments and cancer procedures. It may have benefits that are immeasurable — especially if it helps patients enjoy life.

If you enjoy singing and are healing from cancer, I suggest join a choir or start your own for healing. If you’re a female and live in Miami, consider checking out the Heroines Choir. I will stick to listening to them, but I am grateful they exist and support themselves others with their inspiration when performing.