Today as I am writing this blog, I am in Scotland attending a music festival that I have been attending every January for the past 17 years. When I first came to Scotland for Celtic Connections, I was much younger and very confident about myself and where my life was going. I was full of plans for my life and my future. I mistakenly thought I had a lot more control over my choices and how my life would unfold and I came to learn differently.
My first experience at the festival really opened me up to how important music can be in my life. It spoke to me on so many levels in a way I had not experienced before.
I felt so many strong emotions; joy, laughter, sadness. I realized after I attended that first festival that it was going to be important to me to have music be a part of my every day life.
Thirteen years after I attended that first music festival in January 2002, I was diagnosed with cancer. My surgery and treatment took place in the Spring and Summer of 2013. The pelvic radiation that I received left me very ill and depleted. I spent the Fall trying to recover both physically and emotionally. When it came time to make plans to return to Glasgow, I was not certain that I would have the strength to make the trip. I decided to go because being there has always made me happy. I felt that even if I could not attend many concerts, I would do what I could and enjoy listening to the music that I love. It was a good decision to allow music to be part of my life.
Music as Healing Treatment
There has been a lot of attention paid to how complementary therapies can be useful when a person is receiving treatment. Massage, acupuncture and reiki have now become a part of many cancer treatment protocols. But what about music? Of course, everyone has different musical tastes and interests, so each person would need to explore what speaks to them personally. Music can penetrate deep into our mind and body and wrap itself around and through us. It can be used during treatment as a soothing balm while we are taking in what is necessary to heal us. It can be an aide to relaxation and sleep. It can also be a vehicle for expressing our anger and frustration when the demands of cancer and its treatment become too much at times.
Embracing Music with our Whole Body
I recently heard a famous Scottish violinist talk about his evolution through music from his boyhood until the present. He discussed his early classical training which was more formal and rigid. It was not until he felt he was “speaking” with his violin that his playing really began to take off. He spoke of embracing music in every part of his body and mind. I realized as he was talking that when I was going through my health issues, I had shut music out of my life. I felt withdrawn and cut off for a while and I had missed the music that always fed and replenished me.
The musician talked of trying to help a student that was struggling to get beyond her “trained” way of playing and play with her heart. He told her to look out the window at the mountain range outside and “play the mountains” with her violin. It was the vehicle that allowed her to break through to her deeper self.
As I sat listening to him, I thought to myself, Cancer is exactly like a mountain range. We all have different highs and lows in that range, but guaranteed, we will experience them in our own personal way.