How many people can say “Music (literally) saved my life?”
My first symptom of brain cancer was a funny headache I would get every time I would sing! How crazy is that? Later on, during my radiation treatments, music would soothe me as the doctors zapped me with laser beams that would ensure my cancer could never return. I took a video of myself getting radiation once, and you can hear some good ole’ country music playing in the background once the cancer killing machine fires up.
About a year later, radiation and chemotherapy treatments behind me, no sign of brain cancer – I was in my car on a long drive and I started writing my own cheesy cancer song. Maybe someday I’ll even record it.
But this blog isn’t about me. It’s about the awesome music that inspires all of us cancer fighters. This blog is about the songs that pump us up, make us cry, and inspire us to fight back. Be sure to let us know what songs you think should be on this list in the comments below!
“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “Don’t stop believing, Hold on to that feeling.”
Who could possibly deny the unmistakable, raw cancer-fighting capability of this 1981 power ballad? The San Francisco rock band known as Journey created an unforgettable masterpiece that has been firing up soldiers, professional wrestlers, football players, dentists, and cancer fighters for over 30 years. It’s strength continues to rally cancer survivors everywhere.
“3 AM” by Matchbox 20
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes. The rain’s gonna wash it away, I believe it.”
Anyone else used to think this was a break-up song? I did too. During a 2001 episode of VH1 Storytellers, Matchbox 20 vocalist Rob Thomas told the story of how he wrote this song, inspired by a difficult period of his life when his mother was dealing with cancer. I challenge you to watch this video without reaching for the Kleenex!
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.”
I’m not sure this song is even about cancer specifically, but this one really sums it up. A cancer diagnosis is totally unpredictable (unless you’re eating really unhealthy, not staying active, spending loads of time in a tanning bed, and/or drinking and smoking regularly). Depending on your personal philosophy, we may not be able to agree that “in the end it’s right” in regards to cancer. Your cancer journey is scary for sure, but it can still be fun, uplifting, inspiring, empowering, The list goes on… Cancer or not, when it’s all said and done, we hope you had the time of your life.
“Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “Tuesday night at the Bible study we lift our hands and pray over your body, but nothing ever happens.”
This is one is one of the most beautifully, depressing songs you’ve probably never heard. In the video below, Sufjan Stevens starts the song by telling the audience that it’s a song about the Polish war hero Casimir Pulaski. And while in some awesomely abstract way, that may be true, but to me, it’s a song about someone the writer loved, who was diagnosed with cancer. What’s your take on this one?
“Perseverance” by Hatebreed
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “Face your torment and dismantle your doubt.”
Diagnosed with cancer? It’s time to suck it up and get tough! I used to be a metalhead and this one never failed to pump me up. If you need a little kick in the butt – Hatebreed’s “Perseverance” is a brute, no-nonsense, slightly terrifying, heavy metal, fist pounding, “tell cancer where to stick it” anthem. Does anyone else get the feeling that lead singer Jamey Jasta is angry with you as you watch this one? If this one doesn’t pump you up, it’ll scare the cancer right out of you! Seriously, this song is awesome.
“Mission” by Lupe Fiasco
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “I could have died but I came out fighting.”
Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco describes this song “as a track to empower those facing cancer, revere cancer survivors and remember those who have passed to due to cancer related illnesses.” This song nails the cancer fight in so many ways.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “Oh baby there ain’t no mountain high enough.”
This is a special one to us here at Above + Beyond Cancer. The first time our group of cancer survivors laid eyes on the world’s highest mountain during the Above + Beyond Cancer: Mount Everest Base Camp Trek of 2011, our group started crying, dancing, and singing this song on an overlook near the mountain of Namche Bazaar, Nepal. Above + Beyond Cancer looks at the cancer journey the same way we look at climbing a mountain. It’s tough as hell, but we can get through it together, and we can inspire the world while we do it – Cause Baby there ain’t no mountain high enough!
“Clouds” by Zach Sobiech
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “And we’ll go up, up, up but I’ll fly a little higher, we’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer.”
In early 2013 the world was captivated by the amazing story of Minnesota osteosarcoma patient Zach Sobiech. Zach’s cancer diagnosis was a death sentence, and he knew it. It didn’t stop him from writing this beautiful song. Zach Sobiech died in May of 2013. Zach’s determination in the face of darkness continues to inspire people all around the world today.
“Cancer” by My Chemical Romance
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “All my hairs abandoned all my body, oh my agony.”
When I was diagnosed with cancer a good friend of mine told me I had to hear this song. What the heck was he thinking? This is literally the most depressing song I’ve ever heard in my entire life! But in all seriousness, it’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching glimpse into the fear and the reality that unfortunately many cancer patients still face today.
“Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim Mcgraw
Cancer Fighting Lyrics: “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”
Just in case you wondered, yes, I saved the best for last. This song hits a home run for anyone who’s ever been affected by cancer in some way – which is pretty much everyone in the world. Tim Mcgraw’s 2004 hit reached #1 on US Billboard Charts, was named the number one country song of the year, and won an award for best music video. This song encourages us to do exactly what we should be doing (cancer or not) – living our lives to the fullest!
What songs are we missing? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!