Since his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis in 1997, Lance has had an autologous transplant, multiple relapses and, in 2012, an allogeneic transplant. Through the many ups and downs of treatment and recovery, Lance had one constant—using music as therapy.
“Music was a friend who was always there for me,” he says. “There were times after transplant when I was on dozens of medicines and any type of visual stimulation, like watching TV, was jarring. But I could always listen to music. It was both calming and inspiring.”
“Music has been shown to help patients feel more relaxed and focused, improve coping and even express emotions that can be difficult to communicate,” says Karen Popkin, MA, LCAT, MT-BC, the manager of Music Therapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York.
For example, when Karen works with a patient during a music therapy session, she’ll talk with the patient to get a sense of their needs at that time, and suggest ideas on how they can spend their time together. It may be anything from playing a drum that creates ocean sounds to playing gentle chords on a guitar.
“Afterwards, we’ll talk about how it felt while we were creating music. Often, it becomes easier for a person to say more about what he or she is feeling. Something about the experience of music helps people feel more comfortable expressing their feelings,” she says.
While it isn’t common for hospitals and clinics to have formal music therapy programs for people months or years after transplant, Karen and Lance say there are other ways to use music as therapy, years after transplant.
“There are private, licensed music therapists in some communities, and some people find it beneficial to continue with a formal music therapy program,” Karen says. The American Music Therapy Association’s website offers tools to help you find a music therapist near you.
Some hospitals, clinics and people like Lance are forming choirs where people can come together and sing.
“Even if you don’t have a great voice, it feels good to sing. A choir is a place where people can come together, make music and be heard. If your hospital doesn’t have a program, look for a community choir to join,” Karen says.
“I’m trying to get a choir going in my community where we sing along to familiar songs, like a campfire sing along,” Lance says. “Being in a room with other people who have been through an experience like mine and share that bond, that would be magical.”
Lance has been a non-professional musician
for decades. Throughout his treatment and recovery, he wrote songs that have become his autobiography. He encourages others to use music as a way to tell their own story.
“You don’t have to have musical talent or be able to sing in order to use music to tell your story. Write it down, and then use a classic song as the melody. Bring your family and friends in and have fun with it,” he says. To read more of Lance’s story, hear the music he has created and read the backstory behind each song, go to two4twenty.org.
If writing music or singing aren’t for you, try playing an instrument. Or, put on some music, sing along to the tune and dance.
“Some people really connect to music through dance. It’s a great way to incorporate music, it improves your mood and energy, and as a bonus, you get some exercise,” Karen shares.
Have you found other ways to incorporate music into your recovery? Share your ideas on Be The Match Patients Connect on Facebook.