February 20th, 2018
| Survivor: Testicular Cancer
Going through radiotherapy was by far the most challenging experience I had as a cancer patient. I received radiotherapy five days a week for six weeks. By the time I reached my 3rd week of treatment, I had already lost close to 6kg, was constantly fatigued and had great difficulty sleeping and holding down all types of food. These symptoms endured as each week went by, which made waking up every morning to go to hospital feel like such a chore.
One of the ways that I tried to keep my spirits up during treatment was listening to music. Putting my headphones in and playing songs from some of my favourite musicians was a process that provided a deep sense of comfort and security. For two or three minutes at a time (or however long each song lasted), my mind was taken beyond the treatment room, leaving behind any anxiety or stress.
On most occasions, the music that I listened to was from my all-time favourite musician, Justin Timberlake. It was his song Sexyback, from his sophomore album FutureSex/LoveSounds, which helped rebuild my self-confidence after treatment had caused my body to change rapidly. Each time I played this song through my headphones, or had it pumping through my speakers, I no longer felt like a young cancer patient going through treatment, who hated how he looked because of the effects of radiotherapy. I felt like my usual self, only with extra layers of swagger that I seemingly gained from just listening to JT. More than anything, listening to this song got me to dance - it made me "get my sexy on" many times over and have fun again.
So, for all those people who love JT as much as I do but most of all, for those who are going through treatment and in need of some tunes to add their playlist, I've listed 4 other songs that helped me cope during radiotherapy. For each song, I’ve detailed why they were particularly special for me during treatment, in hopes that you might find a way for it to resonate with you too.
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
As difficult as it was for me to go through treatment and experience its various side effects, it was admittedly even more difficult to see the kind of emotional strain that my cancer battle as a whole was having on my Mother. I absolutely hated how sad my fight against cancer had made my Mum feel. I have a very close relationship with my Mum, but during this time our relationship had been challenged significantly as a result of the impact that cancer had on us emotionally. "Mirrors" was the song that helped us bond again. It was my Mum's favourite Justin Timberlake song, and every time I would play this song around her, she would light up and be her usual, outgoing self again. It would always make me feel so happy to see her smiling.
"Suit and Tie"
Justin Timberlake Ft. Jay Z –The 20/20 Experience
This song radiates class, charisma and unbridled confidence – a few things that I felt I didn't really have much of during treatment but would gain, even for just a brief moment, every time I would listen to this song. On a simple level, this song resonated with me because of my love of wearing suits and ties (I even wore a suit and tie to one of my radiotherapy appointments!). More deeply, I loved listening to this song because in my opinion, it illustrates how valuable it is when you take the time to take care of yourself. I think the overall message of this song is that when you look good, you can feel good; and once you feel good, you can do good too.
Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane
This song is particularly special for me because it was the song that my cousins and I used to jam out to when I would stay at their house during summer holidays (one of the many memories of my life before cancer that I would often think about). It was through our shared love of Maroon 5 that my cousins and I's relationship became closer. Unfortunately, my cousins could not be by my side during treatment because they were living in Indonesia, so listening to this song was a way to make it feel like they were with me again.
Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest
There were many times during treatment when all I wanted to do was cry. I was 17 when I received radiotherapy and felt like there was no way that my life could ever possibly rebound from the challenges that treatment had brought. One problem that I had as a result, was feeling afraid and ashamed at speaking up about the emotions that I was experiencing – doing so, I felt, would cause even more problems for the people I loved. Listening to Sara Bareilles’ music, and this song especially, gave me an outlet to channel a lot of the emotions I was experiencing. This song helped reassure me that my feelings were valid and encouraged me to speak up and be honest about how I was coping.
What songs helped you cope during treatment? Reach out and let me know, I’d love to hear what kind of tunes you’re bumping on the daily.
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Adry Awan is 21 years old and currently completing his final year of a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of New South Wales, majoring in Media, Culture and Technology. In addition to his studies, he is a youth mental health advocate for many mental health organisations such as headspace Australia, batyr, reachout.com Australia and The Black Dog Institute.