By Angela Rankin
Angela Rankin is a three-time primary cancer survivor, who attributes her positive attitude and "fighting" stamina to her faith, family and friends. The excellent care received at MD Anderson gave her "healing confidence."
She continues to fight as she also deals with Parkinson's disease and severe back problems. She's been an active member of MD Anderson's Celebration Singers, a singing group made up of cancer survivors and caregivers, and has no doubt that music heals.
When I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in 2005, I knew I had a long road ahead of me. Then, the "road" took a series of unexpected turns when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, melanoma and Parkinson's disease within the next three years.
I was being treated at the No. 1 cancer hospital in the country, but I also needed medicine for my mind. That's when I decided to focus on music. "He who sings scares away his woes." (Cervantes)
Music heals ... plain and simple. Many studies have shown a direct correlation between music and feelings and attitudes. When I was teaching, I would often play Mozart or Beethoven in the classroom during tests. Invariably the class was calmer and the students entered the room quietly. Many expressed they were more at peace during tests with the music playing. If music can help 14 and 15 year olds, I knew it would help me fight cancer.
I listened to all kinds of music during my "healing" days. Gregorian chant helped to take me to a place of spiritual relaxation during chemotherapy. I thought about St. Peregrine, the cancer saint, who envisioned Jesus coming down off the cross to heal him and pictured Jesus doing the same for me.
Music was an important "medication" during stressful mammosite radiation, an additional chemotherapy regimen, surgery and various medications.
A second family
Early on, I joined the Celebration Singers at MD Anderson, under the leadership of Michael Richardson. The group's purpose is to make beautiful music, have fun and provide inspiration to the newly diagnosed patient as well as the long-term survivor.
The Celebration Singers were such a part of my "music medicine" that when I couldn't make rehearsal one week because my chemo was taking an extra long time, Michael surprised me by bringing the singers and his guitar to my hospital room! I remember tearing up when I saw them all there and began feeling so much better when we were singing together. Beyond just making music, we have gotten so much support from each other over the six years.
I combined my feelings about music and the words I associate with my feelings in an original song "Music to My Years." My song reflects my feelings about the healing power of music, and the video takes the viewer through a survivor's typical day at MD Anderson. It also features the Celebration Singers.