The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Finding My Voice Again

by Savannah MasonSurvivor, Anaplastic EpendymomaJanuary 25, 2024View more posts from Savannah Mason

Going through treatments was incredibly isolating. At the time, I did not really know anyone in the cancer community, so I had no one to talk to who understood what I was going through. I was the youngest patient at the hospital where I was treated. After treatments, I felt driven to start doing things I really enjoyed again that did not have to do with school or work—things that I enjoyed because it was a form of self-care, and it was just fun. I wanted to be a part of a community of individuals who understood.

Getting connected to Teen Cancer America and Play it Back (PIB) songs is one of the best things to ever happen to me. I’ve always enjoyed singing, and I was in concert choir for seven years throughout middle and high school. Somewhere along the way, I lost touch with my passion. College swarmed in and took over my life. When I got sick, I yearned for the feeling that I used to have when singing. Feeling free, like I had a purpose to tell a story. Through Play it Back, I meet with a producer once a week where we work on songs that I write and sing. Coming up with lyrics has not been challenging for me, as the traumas I have faced are plenty enough material to pull from. Typically, I’ll come up with some type of idea either for lyrics or melody, present the idea to my producer, and we go from there.

I have been involved with PIB since September 2022, and I have enjoyed every second of it. Writing my own songs allows me to escape, but it can also help me to recognize my feelings. Songwriting is incredibly therapeutic and has served as one of the main things to help me cope and process the events of last year. The community of other Play It Back artists makes me feel safe and understood. We are all unique, yet we all have a specific understanding of each other because we have all had (or do have) cancer. Our music tastes are all different which is amazing because it allows us to constantly learn and appreciate each other’s work.

In addition to Play it Back, another hobby I have immersed myself in is journaling. I suffered many deficits from my craniotomy, one of which being my reading and writing were negatively impacted from peripheral vision loss. For several days, I could not read or write and was told it could be permanent. Thankfully, as the swelling in my brain decreased, my ability to read and write slowly came back, but I really had to push myself. One of the doctors in the hospital encouraged me to journal daily to exercise my mind. I am happy that I took his advice, as I know it has helped improve my cognition. I journaled every day for many months, and I still journal quite frequently. Journaling makes me feel calm, still, and at peace. When my mind is racing and I’m anxious, I know that sitting and writing down my thoughts will help. There is something about unraveling complex thoughts and laying them out on paper that helps me feel better. It allows me clarity. The most frequent fear I hold is that my cancer will return. This thought is petrifying. Yet when I sit and write out what I am feeling, it helps me feel better.

Another ritual that helps me feel better is therapy. As someone who is currently in school to become a licensed professional counselor, I certainly believe in the importance of therapy. Therapy has really helped me work through my trauma and has helped ease some of my anxious thoughts. Just knowing that I have someone who is here for me and happy and eager to help me unpack my thoughts is incredibly comforting and reassuring. I think that going to therapy is an important part of self-care. Self-care is something that I have really been emphasizing and prioritizing in my everyday life ever since receiving my diagnosis. I have found that it makes me feel 1000% better. Consistently going to therapy, working out, doing skincare, cooking healthy foods, practicing positive affirmations, cleaning, making time for friends, and making time to just be by myself have drastically improved my quality of life. Reading is a hobby I rediscovered that has helped my brain escape from reality. It is one of my favorite things to do. I have also found mindfulness and meditation to be fun, relaxing, and beneficial for my health.

This path of rediscovery of old hobbies and creating new habits has had a very positive outcome on my mental and physical health. I encourage everyone out there who is struggling to soul search and figure out what you find to be truly fun to seek that for yourself. Don’t forget that you deserve to spend the same amount of time that you spend caring for others on yourself, plus some.

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