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The Inspirational Support of Playlists

We all need support and inspiration from time to time. And as a lung cancer patient, I know it can sometimes be hard to find that ideal person or group at just the right moment. I have an in-person support group that I see every month, and I have friends who totally understand what I am going through — or at least do their absolute best to empathize. My family tries their best, even when I wear them thin. But there are times when, for better or worse, I am on my own.

Searching for support within easy reach

For a while, those times seemed particularly lonely. I would scroll through online support groups looking for a discussion thread I could connect with, or read someone else’s cancer blog. These things helped. They made me feel like my voice mattered. And I felt extra good if I thought that I was helping someone else. But as great as these actions were, they did not always leave me feeling buoyed or exalted. It occurred to me that I might benefit from something I could carry around with me, keep within easy reach, to lift me in those moments when nothing else might be around to do the trick.

When I was younger, I had a friend who kept a book of poetry bedside. I remember being gifted with a copy of that book at one time, and how I thought it was wonderful that such a simple item could be referred to again and again in bite-sized morsels when it was needed most. But the book did not speak to me quite the way it spoke to my friend, and it quickly migrated into my library. Collections of poems or inspirational quotes might be perfect for some people, but I was looking for something I could easily just switch on.

Rediscovering music

Then I stumbled across my old collection of mixtapes. I do not carry around a cassette player anymore, or even a CD player, for that matter. For better or for worse, most of my music at home has been converted into digital files on my computer or is consumed through streaming services. But I realized that this situation opened up a unique opportunity for me to create my own, individualized, inspirational playlists. And thanks to modern technology, they would not take up any additional physical space but still manage to go pretty much anywhere with me — as long as there was room on my phone or a reasonable data connection.

Music had always played a big role in my life, boosting me up when I felt down or ferrying me along on a joyful ride; it also has been a driving force for me, creatively, fueling my writing and grounding my more meditative or philosophical moments. I used to make soundtracks for my work projects or to reflect life changes or goals — but I had forgotten about the importance of music as I had fallen into my cancer treatment and under the heavy fog of chemotherapy. It took a while before I rediscovered those mixtapes and got this reminder of how useful a tool music always was.

The comfort and joy of playlists

Now, when I am emotionally low or struggling with side-effects or just want to make some sense out of the way things are, I have been turning to my music collection and creating playlists. Half the therapy is in constructing the lists themselves, some of which I have not even had time to really listen to. But I know the tunes and I know why they are included in each list, and just knowing that, having that familiarity, sometimes feels enough.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.