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How Can I Keep from Singing

Treasuring each moment

Today, as I glance outside my window, I see the glorious colors of late October. They sting my eyes and warm my heart and soul. I treasure each moment of this time of year. Four years ago, right after the birth of my first grandchild, little did I know that a monster disease was growing inside me, traveling from my lungs to my skull, producing a tumor that would work into my brain and threaten my eyesight. It was the shock of my life to discover that I, a non-smoker a daily singer who taught others how to make music and to teach it, had been visited by Stage 4 NSCLC adenocarcinoma.

The next fall, I was just ending radiation to my lung that followed surgery for the brain tumor and chemotherapy for the small nodule in my lung. I could barely swallow Thanksgiving dinner, but was overjoyed to be spending it with my little granddaughter who made me find joy in the nightmare.

A secondary cancer

Shortly after this, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer as well. In the middle of the plans for this, my sister, a breast cancer survivor of 25 years, took a hit to the head and died of the injury to her brain stem. My surgery to remove my thyroid was set for one week after we buried her, one of my biggest supporters and mentor to my music-making. The gland revealed papillary thyroid cancer AND the lung cancer had spread there as well.

Life was at its toughest those days. Not only did I have all that to contend with, but there was a good chance that my singing voice would be harmed from the thyroid removal. I had been a singer since that same sister mentioned had held me on her lap while she played the piano and sang me all kinds of little songs when I was just a small child. The first word I read was B-A-C-H. Music was such a strong part of me that I dedicated my life to helping children make the same discoveries I did about the joy of music-making.

Letting myself heal and finding joy despite complications

I carefully and slowly let my voice heal, just as I worked upon getting my emotions to heal. Slowly, it began to return. While it is not 100% as it was, it is still stronger than most, especially at 67 years of age. I now lead my Community Bible Study group each work in worship through song, and am preparing for a second performance with the local very fine oratorio society, demanding singing for sure. Those of you who have sung Handel’s Messiah would agree.

Then came a second metastasis in the brain and stereotactic radiosurgery. Ah, the wearing of “the mask.”

So you ask, what gets me through? I have an amazing family and friends. Two more grandchildren came, the great joys of my life. We grasped life on the days I felt well. I go to a support group. I joined Gilda’s Club. I joined Lung Force and attended Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. and remained on American Lung Association Patient Advisory Board. I walked in two fundraisers, became an Ambassador in Inspire. I attend seminars to keep myself informed. But most of all, I clung to my faith.

Faith in hard times

On the morning before my brain tumor surgery, a friend texted Isaiah 41:10, not knowing that the afternoon would bring an emergency entrance to the hospital to do the surgery quickly. That night, while I lay in the dark, so very scared, a different friend sent that same scripture passage to me. I knew in the deepest part of my being that message was FOR ME.

Isaiah 41:10 NKJV “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Despite all the tough stuff that happened to me, I must say that God kept His promise to me that He sent through His Word. He kept me calm through the darkest of nights. He gave me strength to endure the unimaginable. My treatments produced success, all of them doing what they hope when they are given to you. I was given the gift of retaining my eyesight. I was given grandchildren. I was given my voice back. As the song says, “How can I keep from singing?”

Link to the song:

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