Rocking Out Towards Recovery

“Music is a medicine that did more for me than Chemo ever would.” – Bo Oliver, Ewings Sarcoma survivor
At The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults we emphasize and celebrate the positive impact physical activity has on cancer patients and survivors alike. But UCF understands that a physical outlet isn’t the only way to aid people affected by cancer, and for many a creative outlet can be just as effective.
Recently, a study out of the American Cancer Society’s journal, “Cancer”, found that “young adults with cancer could foster new coping skills and improve resilience when they participate in therapeutic music activities.” (Digital Journal)
Young adults (ages 11-24) were placed into small groups to create therapeutic music videos (TMVs), where they wrote lyrics, worked with music samples and created visuals to tell their story. (VietnamNet)
These TMVs helped many of the young adults cope with the side effects of treatment, overall building up their resilience.
According to lead study author, Dr. Joan Haase, “Adolescents and young people who are resilient have the ability to rise above their illness, gain a sense of mastery and confidence in how they have dealt with their cancer, and demonstrate a desire to reach out and help others.” (VietnamNet)
TMVs more than other creative outlets proved to be more successful at encouraging young adults to engage. Sheri Robb, a music therapist who worked on the study, had this to say: “When everything else is so uncertain, songs that are familiar to them (young adults) are meaningful and make them feel connected.” (VietnamNet)
The young adults who participated in the TMV study reported to be much better at social integration and more responsive in family environments compared to young adults who did not participate. (Oncology Nurse Advisor)
The creative outlet TMVs provide clearly give young adults an effective method to navigate their treatment, keeping their spirits up and better connecting them to other patients.
Bo Oliver during treatment
Several young adults in our community of support have told us that the creative outlet music offers (with or without accompanying music videos) is, or has been, an effective aid in navigating their treatment.
One of our young adult survivors, Bo Oliver, considers music a corner stone of his life. When he was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma in March of 2012, his life was turned upside down.
But, after six months of Chemo, a Stem Cell Transplant and eight additional weeks of radiation, Bo claims cancer still didn’t impact his life as much as music has.
“I’m a musician and music is my life. My cancer has since gone into remission and I am now one year Cancer Free. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without music.”
Bo’s story
“I can remember when it was time for my first inpatient chemo session. I was there for about a week. I had asked my doctor what I was allowed to bring into my room.
He said “Make it your own!” That is exactly what I did.
I brought in all my Iron Maiden, Rush, Led Zeppelin posters and flags, along with every book I owned on musicians and their lives.
But all that stuff just decorated the blank hospital room I would spend my summer in.
What I really needed was something that would relax me. Something that would pass the time and ease the horrible and terrifying battle that I had with Cancer.
I knew it! My guitar.
Every second I was on the inpatient floor I was playing my guitar. I truly believe that the guitar made me feel better. Music has such a way of relaxing you.
I know for me I get sucked into my playing. I’m in different world. Whether I’m on stage with my band or in a dinky hospital bed with my amp plugged in next to me playing for my family and the nurses. Along with anyone else that wanted to hear.
Music is a medicine that did more for me than Chemo ever would. Chemo wasn’t there to take away the stress of having Cancer. And it certainly didn’t make my time in the hospital enjoyable. Music made that experience bearable.
Fortunately I got a chance to reciprocate that feeling after I was in remission through the organization Music is Medicine.
Savannah Outen, an up and coming female artist, came to the floor and I was able to go room to room with her playing the guitar for the other kids.
The looks on their faces are the reason why I play music. I thank god for my talent and the chance I had to share it with others. And like it did for me, help them through at least one day of the absolute struggle Cancer is.”
Follow the links below to read more about this the study discussed above. Cancer changes lives…so do WE!
Oncology Nurse Advisor
Digital Journal