Updated: Mar 26, 2021
A Music Testimonial Of A Cancer Patient
Daisy was living many young ladies’ dreams. She grew up in beautiful Brussels, Belgium with her parents and sister. She was always a music lover and took weekly piano lessons from the ages of 8 to18. Although not artists by profession her parents are also artistic by nature. Her mother is employed as a translator with a passion for painting and her father, an engineer with a love of photography.
In 2015, Daisy was given the opportunity to model when participating in a foreign exchange program in Italy working mostly for Italian photographers and small brands. She was pursuing her degree, enjoying time with friends, and traveling. Life was wonderful until she heard the word cancer and everything came to a screeching halt.
It was 2017 and she was in her early 20’s. She had just graduated from university where she received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Management Engineering. A persistent dry cough suddenly became worse. After some routine tests were ordered by her physician, out of nowhere, when she was on the verge of achieving all she had set out to do, the diagnosis came in - stage IV Lymphoma.
Treatments included several rounds of chemotherapy and hospitalization. Unless you have helped a loved one through it, most of us can only imagine what chemotherapy is like. “There are no words to describe the physical suffering that the treatments cause,” Daisy recalled.
One thing that did give her a bit of comfort was the piano. She had completely stopped playing during her studies at the university but after the diagnosis, she took back up with her former teacher and once again began playing. Daisy equates playing the piano to therapy and said that for her "it is solace for the body and spirit and much more effective than any painkiller”.
A growing body of research from Harvard Medical agrees with Daisy and confirms that music therapy is far more than a fringe benefit. It can improve medical outcomes and quality of life in many ways. For example: Listening to music diminishes anxiety associated with chemotherapy and can also alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with the treatment.
Furthermore, music therapy has been tested in patients ranging from those with intense pain to chronic pain. Overall, the therapy reduces pain perception, lessens the amount of pain medication needed, helps alleviate depression, and gives them better control over their pain.
One year into the treatment and things were looking great. Life was getting back to normal. Daisy had just spent a month in London and was packing for Egypt and preparing to start her Ph.D. For a few months, everything was on track until May of 2019 when the news came that every cancer survivor fears the most. It was back.
She was again hospitalized and placed on heavy rounds of chemotherapy and that time, in less than 6 months, all scans indicated she was in complete remission and cancer-free. Her body was healing and her mind was following suit. The mental burden associated with dealing with a life-threatening illness is massive and Daisy credits not only her fantastic support system for her psychological recovery but also the rediscovery of piano playing.
When I asked Daisy how playing the piano helped in her recovery she said, “The piano saved me!” She explained that when she was at her lowest point and rediscovered the piano and developed a passion for classical music she also developed hope, something she had been running low on.
"Music brings in a world made of poetry without words. It brings in a dream made of harmonious sounds and emotional melodies."
Unfortunately, one more setback was on the way - COVID-19. In March of 2020, Daisy’s mother, sister, and herself all developed symptoms. Her family recovered quickly, while her symptoms persisted. Her doctor instructed her to go to the hospital, where she stayed for weeks with no improvement. Her immune system was too weakened by the past treatments to fight off the virus. With the help of medication, after two months she did make a complete recovery and thankfully hasn’t experienced any of the lasting side effects that so many have dealt with.
“The pandemic started right after the 2 years of cancer treatment; which doesn’t
help one to believe in or plan for the future given the uncertainty around its evolution and
the heaviness of its impact,” Daisy stated. With that being said, today Daisy is living life to its fullest and prefers to embrace the present moment as much as one can considering we are still dealing with the pandemic.
Daisy was very excited to announce that she just completed her mid-thesis presentation last week in her quest for obtaining her Ph.D. She is currently working full-time from home in the energy industry and has goals to develop useful expertise in that area and bring a valuable contribution to society.
When not working she loves reading, swimming, walking, and plans to travel again as soon as we get the all-clear. She of course loves to listen to music as well as play and listens to many different genres of music including tango, deep house, ambient, jazz, and of course classical, with a particular love for instrumental pieces.
When contemplating life and the effects music has had on hers in specific she expressed, “Music is an escape and a shelter. During treatments, music brought beauty in my life, where everything was so ugly and painful. It helped me to disconnect from my reality and to connect with my emotions. Playing gave me the chance to express my darkest feelings, but also to let myself be carried away by more soothing and joyful pieces.”
The constraints of the treatments did not allow her to go out and travel around the world, as she needed to isolate herself between the hospital and her bedroom. Thankfully, her passion for music made her meet new composers, discover new atmospheres, and explore new countries and cultures. Daisy is particularly moved by music from the Romantic era (18-19th century) during which composers were often revealing their innermost thoughts and feelings. She especially enjoys playing pieces from less known composers from the Romantic era, as it gives the impression of bringing them back to life. A few of her favorite famous romantic piano composers include Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert.
At the age of 26 Daisy has been through more than most people endure in a lifetime; blindsided with cancer and then hit with COVID while her body was still in a weakened state. Undoubtedly, Daisy is a fighter and has more to accomplish in her life.
A bit of advice from Daisy for those who may need it:
Relax, stop worrying so much, especially about insignificant things.
Enjoy each moment, enjoy your family and friends, embrace the present, and don’t always plan for the future.
Focus your energy on what’s important, take one step at a time, and don’t try to do everything at once. Take care of yourself. Sleep, drink water, eat healthy, exercise, spend time in nature, and breathe.
Now take some time to enjoy a bit of Daisy’s playing along with one of her best fans, Hector (the pup ).
You can follow Daisy on Instagram to enjoy more of her music and follow her journey.
If you're facing a procedure or illness, or just want relief from the stresses of daily life, a music therapist may be able to help you. You can find one on the website of the American Music Therapy Association, www.musictherapy.org