All day long, KEXP is teaming up with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center to present Music Heals, dedicated to the power of music to lift our spirits and heal our souls in the face of cancer. From 6 AM to 6 PM, John Richards, Cheryl Waters, and Kevin Cole will tell the stories shared with us by members of our community and work in the songs that helped them through the healing process either emotionally or physically. We've shared a few of these stories below, along with their accompanying tracks. These messages from listeners show, as John puts it, "music can indeed heal; if not the cancer itself, then at least the pain and frustration that people experience."
Later this evening from 6PM to 8PM, join KEXP and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center in the Gathering Space with guest DJs cancer survivor Cheryl Waters and Atticus whose mom is also cancer survivor. We hope you'll join us for this free family-friendly dance party celebrating hope and survival.
[ see part two of these stories on the KEXP Blog here ] Maria:
I would often walk through my sister Maddie's and brother-in-law David's front door during the holidays to see the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense playing on their big screen. On regular days, especially as David's cancer kept him home more and more, I would walk in to see golf (a later in life hobby he shared with my sis) on the big screen with KEXP playing in the background. David was a big supporter of local music, especially my son and his musical endeavors. So imagine how happy it made him to hear "This Must Be The Place" on KEXP, a live recording with his nephew (Gianni from Naked Giants) singing and jamming to one of his favorite band's songs with Car Seat Headrest.
David passed away this past Saturday, February 25th at Swedish Hospital instead of at home where he wanted to be. But I know that home was where my sister is, and she was of course by his side. Please play this song for our family in this tough time. The lyrics that will comfort my sister and my nieces Natasha and Sabina most are the last:
- Home, is where I want to be
- But I guess I'm already there
- I come home, she lifted up her wings
- I guess that this must be the place
- I can't tell one from the other
- I find you, or you find me?
- There was a time before we were born
- If someone asks, this is where I'll be, where I'll be oh!
- My sister is responding to all the "What can I do to help?" questions with "Donate to a cause of your choice in David's name". I am proud to donate to KEXP in David's honor as your music gave him so much pleasure and made him such a proud uncle to hear his nephew Gi on the radio.
I wanted to share a small bit of my cancer story and the songs that continue to help me to this day. The cancer may be gone but the scar lasts a lifetime.
My Dad passed away from Esophageal Cancer on January 2, 2016, just five months after he was diagnosed. It was very fast and aggressive, leaving my mother and I mostly reeling. Not a lot of time to process the diagnosis, let along opportunity to think about places never been or saying things never said.
Internally, I refer to the years 2000-2002 as my years of loss and grief. During that time, I lost my mom, my grandfather, and then my dear dad all to cancer. Losing my mom was like being cast from the harbor to find my way, while the death of my dad set me adrift in an endless ocean without a means of navigating home. In 2004, I took a long hike on the whole PCT, which, unbeknownst to me at the time, would prove incredibly therapeutic as I quite literally walked through deep emotions of loss, grief, and sadness...ultimately, redefining my place in the world without my parents -- emerging with my own compass and way of navigating the world. So, two songs that evoke that time are Greg Brown's "Two Little Feet" and "Further In."
In the fall of 2015, after returning from a tour in Europe, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. Two weeks later, I was in the hospital undergoing surgery. One evening after I had gotten home from the hospital, blood started hemorrhaging from my throat, out of my mouth, it was going in my lungs, I thought I was literally going to die right there. I was rushed back to the hospital and had to spend another for five days there until I fully recuperated and they were able to operate and cauterize the artery that had burst open. Not to bring politics into this, but without Obamacare I have no idea what I would've done. I might not even be writing this today. I'm so grateful for all my friends and everyone that helped in my recovery.
I would like to request the song "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" from the Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert 1960 for the Music Heals day.
I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer (at initial diagnosis) in 2008 when I was 37. Thanks to my amazing doctors at SCCA and my incredible support network, I am still kicking. I have never embraced the "fighter" "warrior" "battle" or "hero" language that often is said in the cancer world. With stage 4, I can't beat it, but I am living with it. Luckily, I have been able to live with it and still enjoy skiing, hiking, cycling, and Zumba.
I have a brain tumor. I have had it since 2005. I had it removed then and it was a barely processed experience. I had a grand mal seizure on the first day of an art department job that I had been trying to get for some time. After two hours of work, I fell over and almost hit a concrete floor. Luckily, my new boss caught me and protected me from further injury. I ended up in Harborview, found out about my tumor, and was put on sedative anti-seizure medicine for three months. Next came surgery. It felt strange to wake up from this three month dream. I never really realized I had been operated on until after my surgery. Months of strange behaviors, inability to work, horrible medications, and a changed personality ensued. My tumor was in my right frontal lobe, that creative powerhouse of your brain that really makes people who they are. It took years to learn to reign in my thoughts, say complete sentences, control my anxiety. After three years of struggling, I finally felt like a normal person, though I still had a seizure disorder. I got my life working again, ended up having a child, and finally in 2013, I met a man that changed my life. He and I started dating early that year. I also lucked out that Obamacare kicked in and I was able to get my first MRI in five years. After three months of dating, I told "D" I had had a brain tumor. He barely batted an eyelash and said he loved me just the same. Well, two weeks later, I had my MRI and found my tumor was growing again. This time I had six weeks of proton radiation at the wonderful Proton Center in North Seattle. The staff there was amazing. My treatments were not. I had to lay on a gurney with a mask bolted down onto my head for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. My head would hurt non-stop, my mind felt constricted. I lost hair, had a swollen face, and could never sleep. If it wasn't for my four-year-old son and D, I would never have made it through that summer.
This year I write to you with a letter of hope, and hopefully insight and understanding.
I have a six year old with leukemia named Parker, and we're going through a difficult stage in chemotherapy right now. He's feeling really bad right now and hasn't been in school all year, and we use music to help him cope with the pain and the frustration of his treatment. His favorite song of all time is "Moving to the Left" by Woods. He loves it so much he knows all the words.
My husband, David, was diagnosed on March 2, 2004 and treated at SCCA/UW Medical Center. Our journey through surviving and on to thriving has been filled with the healing power of music! David and I have been music lovers and concert goers our entire lives together. And when he was well enough we were exalted and newly alive at a Prince concert! Extraordinary! Music soothes us during our difficult times and energizes us always to be in the moment and live intentionally.
To be honest, its hard to remember a time in my life that cancer didn't cast some sort of shadow. My best friend died when he was just five, and I was only four. It was one of those things where he had a baseball in his stomach, which kind of hurt, and we both thought was sort of cool and interesting. But eventually the baseball turned into a basketball, and then he was gone. Whether it was my perpetually overactive imagination or the universe intervening, for a while after he had died he'd still come hang out with me at night as I was trying to fall asleep, and we would play with our train and Star Wars figures. That was my first taste of cancer and how much it sucked.
Our son Elliott was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of ten months. He went through four months of chemo and ultimately a liver transplant at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Music was key in lightening the mood, lifting our spirits, and giving us strength to get through the tough days. In April, we look forward to celebrating Elliott being cancer-free for two years. Words will never be able to express our gratitude and thoughts that are always with the donor’s family. We are so grateful to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at Seattle Children’s -- especially the Oncology, Transplant and ICU teams.
I just got started. Last week, they called me in to retake the blood test. It was not the first time I failed a test. It had signs of Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer, and I was freaking out for a day. I went back to the clinic and asked the doctor to give a very short explanation. In two hours, I will be in the doctors office again to find out what is going on and what they are going to do. As for Music Heals, mine is Leonard Cohen. I took it hard when he passed away because his lyrics can burn through the defensive barriers we all put up and find out what is with the world we keep hidden, The song "Democracy" comes to mind. His last album you can tell he knew what was coming next. His words I understand the most are when he said, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."
Music is a thread weaved through my storied days. My life's playlist is made up of and is continuously added to, as the challenging and joyous times of living present themselves.
March 15 will be 21st birthday of my son Spencer. He was born with leukemia. For nine weeks, Spencer and my wife and I lived at the Children's Hospital Infant ICU until finally we had to let him go on May 17th. During his short life, we would sit with Spencer in his isolation room and play cassettes on a Walkman with a little speaker. As he lay in his bed, intubated, and wired to various monitors, we'd place the Walkman next to his head and softly play some music. He seemed to like Sweet Honey in the Rock and The Chieftains best. The music didn't heal him. Nothing could. But it comforted him some.
That was my life. I pulled over and wept (as I'm doing right now). That song has a very special meaning for me. Healing? No. There's no healing those wounds. But comfort, yes.
Peace and love to all those who've been tested in one way or another.
My dad was a Cali-baked surfer who, discovering he’d be deployed to Vietnam, dropped out of school and moved to Hawaii. The logic was sound: if he had a few months left to live, he’d rather spend them in the waves.
He went into the war Brian Wilson and came back John Lennon, long-haired and filled with rebellion.
Decades later, hair buzzed and Harley sold, he’d still lie on the carpet with his teenaged daughter, teaching lessons and resistance with music. Metaphor with “Hotel California.” Satire with “Thick As A Brick.”
And if we have to talk about moments, this was a defining one: “Wind Sky Cries Mary” coming from the radio of a ‘72 Dodge pulled over in the rain, so that his 14-year-old could hear to it for the first time. Even if it made her late to class. Especially if it made her late to class.
Fast forward to raw spring day and the diagnosis of an extremely aggressive cancer (stay out of the sun, surfer bros) with a 3-month life expectancy. Three months. In March. 2015.
My dad who, two years later is not a “was” but an “is.” A father. A grandfather. Alive-But-Not-Well. Thanks to Seattle Care Alliance and the tenacity of a man who is by no means a survivor, but still: a soldier.
A 20-year-old kid sent to fight a war, a 70-year old man fighting another. We are told to live every moment as if it is our last, never knowing exactly when that will be. So let know every moment. Let us be forever there, in a warm truck cab while the rain pelts the roof of the car. We only have that one song. And it’s ending soon.
Anyway: please dedicate “Wind Cries Mary” to my dad.
Danielle in Philadelphia, PA:
In 2014 we lost my brother in law Dave to metastatic brain cancer as a result of melanoma. He was a lovely person. Always treated me like family from the minute I met him. And treated my sister with love and kindness. He loved music. In his last days, as my sister cared for him in their home, he couldn't tolerate the smell of food or the light from the television. But he wanted to hear music. I most associate him with The Swell Season because he recommended them to me and we gushed about them to each other. His young niece played "Falling Slowly" on the violin at his memorial service. That was, in fact, the song that happened to be playing when they removed his body from his home.
Two months later, my father was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an intense form of brain cancer. I had an estranged relationship with my father at that time but was compelled to see him because of the experience I had just had with Dave. Once, when my father was in the hospital at the beginning of this illness, he said to me "I just keep hearing that people who died song." He then proceeded to sing the lyrics he could remember of the Jim Carroll tune. And he laughed. He always had a weird and sometimes dark sense of humor. I pulled it up on YouTube and we both laughed in a dim hospital room under dire circumstances. When he died, a friend of mine sent me a short clip of himself paying guitar and singing. He explained to me that the night before he had been thinking about me and my dad during a yoga class he was teaching. At the end, as the class lay in corpse pose, he sang gently to them. It was "Window" by Damien Jurado. I was on the train heading to see my father for the last time. It was a brightly sunny January day and I felt stunned. Even though I knew he was about to die, I was still shocked in a way. As I listened to my friend play soft guitar and sing, my tears began to flow. It was a helpful release and I was then in touch with the gravity of the moment. I've been fortunate to share this story with Damien Jurado and he was very kind and expressed empathy. Music has the ability to connect us like nothing else. Thank you for knowing that and creating space for it. It's like we all get a chance to hold each other's hands give a shoulder to cry on.
While undergoing chemo, I made sure to listen to The Soft Boys "I Wanna Destroy You" at each of my treatments. It just seemed appropriate. I'm four years out and doing fine (fingers crossed). My guess is that even cancer knows not to mess with Robyn Hitchcock.
Jay in Portland, OR:
My wife Katherine began her battle in October 2015 with a colorectal cancer diagnosis that suddenly and irrevocable changed our lives. We immediately got on the Cancer Train -- her treatment started with such promise, connecting with compassionate surgeons and oncologists that guided her through the chemotherapy/radiation treatment that cures 90% of people with her diagnosis. However, we quickly learned that she fell into the unfortunate 10% of people who are not cured by the global standard treatment and are therefore at serious risk of the cancer progressing with limited means to stop it. I’ll skip over the details of literal pain and suffering, but suffice it to say that her cancer advanced quickly and relentlessly, the most aggressive case her providers had ever seen, and we lost her this past August at the age of 42. The daily whirlwind of medical appointments, school pickup/childcare coordination for our two young daughters, expected and unexpected hospital stays, and juggling of work responsibilities during treatments was exhausting -– all we could do was constantly react to the present moment’s (usually negative) information at hand.
Most of the music that got me through those dark months was loud and defiant. While Mudhoney, The Thermals, and others were also in heavy rotation, the discs that spun the most were the recent three albums by Bob Mould (the stone cold Walt Whitman of rock and roll from the look of the Silver Age inner sleeve album photo). These albums seem to crystalize all of the interior landscape of middle age -- the weight of grown man responsibilities, the disappointments and fear commensurate with those responsibilities, the taste of fleeting joys and the desire for more of them, the clawing of mortality at the edges…all of the middle rage – and channel it outward in a force field of glorious distortion. If he never stops making this music I will be ecstatic. As difficult as it was to handle the gravity of our situation, just sitting with a pair of headphones inside the “walls of sound that keep the sky from falling down” served as the best meditation and place of serenity that I could find. Bob clearly knew this long before I did, but it’s now completely obvious to me that the only way to live each day is burning-heartedly. If you’ve been to the front lines of the cancer war I think you know what I’m talking about.
And to those of you immersed in battling this horrible disease or still being pulled in its wake – keep raging the good rage.
My name is Rick. Music is and has been my life from a young age. Now at 28, I continue to find new and exciting tunes, each one striking a chord inside my soul. That may sound kind of cheesy or rehearsed but it's from the heart... or soul I guess. Anyways, music has and always will be my healer. The latest example I have started may of 2016. After a fantastic road trip with my two favorites, Stacey my love of almost 7 years and Olive the most wickedest Coonhound on the planet, I noticed something was wrong, like really wrong with my body so I decided to see a doctor. After a visit with a Primary Care Physician, I was referred to a neurologist. After a few visits with him and some grueling MRIs I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Conveniently during that time I came across an extraordinary album. An extraordinary album which touched my soul, helped me heal and somehow knew how I felt. It never left and was always there when I needed it. Morning Phase by Beck is and will always be the music of my soul. In this life long struggle with RRMS, I am thankful I have three things Stacey my Love, Olive my pup, and Morning Phase, my music. But really those three; also doctors, my family, medicine, and let's not forget bacon.
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