Songs That Uplift During Cancer Recovery

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Even though multiple myeloma had devastating effects on my collapsed lungs, singing has helped regain my sense of strength and resilience.

Illustration of a man with hair on the sides, rectangular glasses, smiling with teeth.

For the past couple of years, I have dedicated my Wednesday afternoons to perfecting my singing abilities. Singing has become my saving grace, a lifeline that has helped me recover from the devastating effects of multiple myeloma on my collapsed lungs.

This cancer has not only taken a toll on my ability to breathe, but it has also caused me to lose six inches in height. My once tall and proud frame now feels contracted and diminished, leaving me with conflicting emotions and a constant sense of self-consciousness. But when I let my voice soar through the air, all of those worries seem to fade away, replaced by a sense of strength and resilience. It's as if the music itself is healing me, one note at a time.

It all started as a Christmas gift from my wife, Heather, who connected me with her sister Laurel, a talented singing coach based in Atlanta. And although we may be miles apart, our weekly Zoom sessions bring us together as we embark on a half-hour journey of vocal exercises and warm-ups.

With each session, we begin by focusing on our breathing and then move onto playful repetition of sounds like "Za ZaZaZaZa" or "No NoNoNoNo." But what truly brings me joy is incorporating my daily chanting of "Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum," a practice I share with my daily group, Bells of Hope. The sound fills the room and transports me to a place of peace and harmony as I continue to hone my vocal skills with each passing week.

During recovery, as I lay in my hospital bed, I reached for the spirometer, a small plastic device with a tube attached to a small ball. It was my constant companion during this time, measuring my lung strength and reminding me of my physical limitations. Frustration and helplessness often consumed me as I struggled to push myself and regain my strength, but there were also moments of anger when I would toss the spirometer into the nearby trash can. In those moments, however, a voice inside me reminded me that I needed to persevere, not just for my health but for my own peace of mind.

As I began my singing lessons, the first piece I chose to tackle was the timeless melody of “Moon River”. This classic tune holds a special place in my heart, as it takes me back to when I first learned to play the clarinet. It was the very first song I had to memorize and master, and every note brings back memories of hours spent practicing in my living room.

But “Moon River” is more than just a musical aria for me. It also holds sentimental value because of its association with one of my favorite films, “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” starring the charming Audrey Hepburn. The simple yet moving lyrics encapsulate the journey of life, with all its ups and downs.

And perhaps most importantly, “Moon River” speaks to my romantic soul. Its dreamy melody and wistful lyrics transport me to a world where anything is possible and love knows no boundaries. With every note I sing, I am reminded that music has a way of capturing emotions and memories that words simply cannot express.

As Laurel and I continued our sessions, I chose "I Dreamed a Dream" from “Les Miserables” to fill the air. This touching melody washed over me, bringing back memories of watching Susan Boyle's iconic performance on “Britain's Got Talent.” At that moment, I couldn't help but feel inspired by her transformation from an underdog to a confident and beautiful performer. As I sang, the emotions of the song came flooding through me, filling the room with passion and hope. This was more than just a song to me; it was a reminder that dreams can come true and anything is possible.

On certain days, when the kitchen is fragrant with the aroma of spices, almond flour, cinnamon and maple syrup, I like to turn on my favorite radio station, Pandora. The familiar beat of "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor fills the room, transporting me back to my younger years spent dancing in disco clubs. As I mix and stir, the lyrics resonate with me, serving as a reminder to keep fighting my battle against multiple myeloma. The upbeat tune and empowering words give me the strength to continue on my journey.

My repertoire includes a diverse selection of songs. One such timeless melody is "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the beloved classic film, “The Wizard of Oz.” Its beautiful lyrics and soaring notes transport listeners to a world of wonder and possibility. Another iconic tune that I often perform is "The Hills Are Alive" from “The Sound of Music,” its lively and spirited melody echoing through the hills and bringing joy to all who hear it.

But one of my recent favorites is "The Sound of Silence" by the renowned folk duo Simon and Garfunkel. The poignant lyrics and memorable melody capture the bittersweet emotions of introspection, leaving a profound impact on all who listen.

Despite their different styles and origins, all these songs share a common theme — one of hope, inspiration and uplifting. Each note carries with it a message of resilience and perseverance, reminding us that no matter what challenges we face, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. As I pour my heart into each performance, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for the ability to touch others' hearts through music.

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