Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Music and cancer

Music to soothe the anxiety and pain levels of cancer patients sounds like a nice idea except I won't be singing anytime soon. You don't want me to sing. Trust me. I only sing in the car when no one is there and I can play the music loud enough to drown out the sound of my voice. It would be painful for anything else. You also don't want me to try to remember who wrote or sings a specific song - I am always wrong. I do know Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner but anything else, I am probably wrong.

All these medical researchers are scratching their heads about why music could help cancer patients with pain and moods. I didn't go to medical school, have no advanced degrees, and can't sing at all but I think I know why - its simply a distraction from sitting there thinking about pain and cancer. If you listen to music, you can let your mind wander and (silently - if its me) sing along, and distract yourself from the reality of your life.

When I was in treatment the new oncology center had a big waiting room full of cancer people and their friends and family waiting for the blood counts to be checked so they could get an infusion. Very little eye contact - too many bald heads, bad wigs, and obvious scarves (do I look as sick as everyone else?), lots of reading bad magazines, whispered conversations, and longing looks at the door to the nurses stations and at the ladies with the snack cart. It was not a cheery atmosphere to say the least. There was no background noise, just the perky receptionists greeting people, and the nurses calling names for the next patients.

I got a big surprise after treatment, they installed a big screen TV and rearranged the chairs and now everyone watches TV and talks to each other, in a slightly cheerier fashion. It is a distraction from reality. The Ellen Show is a good choice and popular among the patients. CNN and Fox News were definite no-nos. Who wants to look at the real world when we need a distraction?

Music makes perfect sense to me. I finally reached the 1990's and got an MP3 player - my last personal music system was a Sony Walkman with a cassette tape in 1978 - and I find it gets me through my work outs and other times when a distraction is required.

Cancer swallows you whole and any kind of distraction can be welcome. Something to think about besides surgery, treatment, pain, medical adventures, stress, and chemotherapy - I am all for it.


Elizabeth said...

music was my way through surgery and treatment - as it has been with other situation in my life...I even just blogged about this last week.

Anonymous said...

Hi Caroline
Absolutely! Music can soothe us
even when we're not dealing with cancer, or surgery, or something else serious. So why wouldn't it work when we need it most; and therefore you'd think health care facilities would think it a no-brainer to do something about it.

Here in Melbourne, the Royal Children's Hospital (starting in the Oncology Unit) developed and produced a whole series of CDs for children dealing with cancer - aptly entitled 'Hush'.

More details here if you and your readers are interested:

I really enjoy reading your posts.

All the best


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