Music to Cope With Cancer
- Patty Griffin, a breast cancer survivor and folk music icon, is celebrating her 59th birthday.
- Griffin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. She underwent surgery and radiation before becoming cancer-free.
- Treatment left a toll on her voice. Even still, she decided to get back to doing what she loved after her recovery.
- Griffin always came back to music because she knew it was where she wanted to be. Many other cancer survivors have told us that music served as an amazing outlet during their cancer battles.
Griffin is a musician and a storyteller all wrapped in one. For more than two decades now, she’s been sharing slices of the rich pie that is her life with cathartic melodies, haunting vocals and touching lyrics. One of Americana music’s most celebrated singer-songwriters, she’s been awarded two GRAMMY Awards and received seven nominations.Read More
“At some point in the pandemic, I was digging through my own music streaming to relearn some of my own oldies and found something that had been compiled (perhaps by a computer algorithm) that was titled as a ‘rarities’ or ‘deep cuts’ collection,” Griffin explained of the 10-track album. “I looked of course, and it was a pretty boring list for the most part. I later dug through some recordings I had done on cheap home recording apps …View this post on Instagram
“I dug around some more and found things from some GarageBand recordings, and then also a couple of things from an in-studio demo session in Nashville that were pretty interesting, including a duet I did with Robert Plant when we first met… It all seemed worth listening to. Back then I didn’t think so, but I do now.”
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And fans can look forward to upcoming shows, too.
Next up is her participation in the Savannah Music Festival in April followed by her Amplify Decatur Music Festival performance later that month. Later this summer, she’ll also be joining top country music group Little Big Town as a special guest for their “Friends of Mine” tour.
Needless to say, not even a cancer battle could stop Griffin from continuing to do what she loves.
Patty Griffin’s Breast Cancer Battle
Patty Griffin found out she had breast cancer in 2016, but the “Heavenly Day” singer “felt like sh— for a long time” prior to her diagnosis.
“I was sick a lot,” she told People. “Being on the road a lot is a good way to get sick anyway, and I was sick more than usual. So I was already feeling like, ‘There’s something really wrong.’ Then I got the diagnosis.”
RELATED: Patty Griffin Says Her Breast Cancer Was a Struggle, But a Passing Phase Like Anything Else
For treatment, she underwent surgery and radiation before becoming cancer-free. Understandably so, it took Griffin some time to return to music because the treatment actually stole her voice for a period of time.
“[The toughest part] was having to reset the way I thought about everything and even my identity about myself,” she told People. “I always thought of myself as somebody who could sing really well, and to lose all of that is quite something. When you’re a singer, you’re an athlete and that just stays true for as long as you decide to be a singer. Your body is your instrument, so there was a lot of work to do there.”
Looking back on the whole ordeal, she told Texas Music that breast cancer gave her a fresh perspective on life.
“Cancer’s a weird thing,” Griffin explained. “As everyone who has had cancer knows, you cannot help but think the whole time, ‘Is it still around?’ And suddenly there’s clarity.
“Certain things become much more serious, other things become much less serious. Wear the jeans that make your butt look big, you know what I mean?”
How Music Helps You Cope With Cancer
Thankfully, music was there for Patty Griffin during her cancer journey. Even when she couldn’t sing like she used to after treatment, she always came back to music because she knew it was where she wanted to be.
“I realized that I was going to have to deal with what I had [in order] to keep working because that’s what I really wanted to do,” she told People. “There’s an old tree in my backyard that I spent a lot of time sitting and looking at when I was not feeling very good. It’s got all these little warts on it that have grown over the years and it’s probably over 100 years old, but there’s a lot of beauty in it. I think that is true for all things that change and grow and age.”
When she began making her 10th album, Patty Griffin, in fall 2017, the singer’s voice was just starting to return. And even though she didn’t feel comfortable with her voice at the time, she grew to appreciate her newfound way of creating song.
“People go through so many different things physically, and human beings are constantly being asked to reconfigure,” she explained of the process to The Austin Chronicle. “Without all my little vocal tricks to make everything pretty or cool, I really felt free in a way.
“I could write more words, for one thing, and that was a new thing for me. Not having tricks knocked some of the shit off of it, too. You can get a little too athletic and bullshitty about singing something. So now it’s not exactly pretty, but it’s pretty true.”
My Friends Went Away After My Diagnosis; Thank God For Music
And other people like Griffin have told SurvivorNet, time and time again, that music played a huge role during their cancer journey. Bianca Muniz, for instance, found her love of performing to be a savior after her ovarian cancer diagnosis at 11 and breast cancer diagnosis at 22.
“This experience has had two different effects on my creativity and my music, so I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from it,” she said. “But also the side effects of treatment, of chemo, and surgery have definitely had a little bit of a negative effect on my voice.
“But then again, I love performing. I always feel happy after I’ve performed.”
Cancer Survivor Joel Naftelberg Learned to Dance on His Problems
Similarly, liver and pancreatic cancer warrior Joel Naftelberg has always turned to music during his times of need. Music helps him take everything one day at a time.
“I have found music and rock and roll to be transformational,” he said. “Doesn’t necessarily solve anything, but it does let us dance on our problems for at least an hour or two.”
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