Inspiring Letter From A Cancer Survivor
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 09:02
Monday, 11 June 2012 09:12
I received this letter from someone who started out as a fan about 10 years ago and has now become a friend. She was asked to speak about her experiences fighting cancer and was nice enough to send me a copy of her speech.....reading it was a career highlight for me.
Cancer; a word that strikes fear in the heart of every human being. A word that too many of us have heard in conjunction with mom, dad, sister, brother, me. Shock sets in at the first muttering of the word and it does not seem real. Once the shock passes the fear moves in, “how am I going to make it through this? Will I survive?” How do you overcome the fear? My answer was music. Webster’s Dictionary defines music as “vocal, instrumental or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody or harmony.” Music is so much more than a bland description of mechanical sounds. It is a feeling, a calm, a safe place to land. The song that played as I was introduced was “You Can’t Hide Beautiful” by Aaron Lines from the album Living Out Loud. A song, album and artist that are very important to my story and my ability to overcome the fear.
I was diagnosed with Mycosis Fungoides, a T cell non hodgens lymphoma, at 17. Mycosis Fungoides or MF in its first stage appears as a psoriasis like rash on the skin and most commonly affects people over 50. I was twelve when it first appeared. Treatment includes 30 days of total skin electron beam radiation followed by 6 months of PUVA a UVA light treatment. I graduated from high school a semester early so I was able to finish treatment before starting University in September.
Every morning for 6 weeks of radiation I would get into the car snuggled in my quilt and I would listen to Aaron Line’s album Living Out Loud. During treatment the radiation technicians would play the cd for me in the treatment room and on the way home I would plug in my cd player and listen to it again. Listening to Aaron made me feel safe. I was ok as long as the music was playing.
My aunt died of breast cancer in 1989 leaving behind a husband and two small children. To help my cousins cope my uncle told them to find their “happy place”, a place where they could feel safe and happy when the world seemed dark, a piece of advice he passed onto me when I was diagnosed. I struggled to find my happy place. I would stand in the radiation room and imagine myself in meadows surrounded by flowers but it was not right. It did not transport me to a ‘safe place’ I was still scared. During my 6 weeks of treatment I was invited to the local country radio station as Aaron was coming in for an interview. My sister and I got to meet him and even sing with him on the radio. From that experience came my “happy place”. If I was afraid or upset or worried I just imagined myself back in that radio station listening to Aaron play and I was safe. The world melted away and I was protected.
The summer after I finished treatment my mom and I went on a road trip to Nashville for Fan Fest. By this time I was feeling like myself again and my hair had grown back in the cute curls customary after cancer treatment. We got to enjoy the country scene and attend a few concerts and the week culminated in a party with Aaron. I was able to talk to him, thank him for his music and tell him how much it meant to me.
Music helped me overcome the fear. Imagining myself back in the radio station listening to Aaron play allowed me to feel calm and safe when I was afraid and scared. That was my happy place. Fear is an overpowering emotion that accompanies the word cancer. We cannot stop the fear from coming but we can find a way to overcome it, even if just for a moment.