|You’re probably sitting there wondering, “What in the hell does Fran Drescher know about music or cancer? Isn’t she The Nanny with the nasal voice and funny laugh?”
Sure, that’s all true. But, I have news for you, my friend; I’m also a cancer survivor. During the last season of The Nanny I was experiencing symptoms. Little did I know I was about to embark upon a two year eight doctor odyssey in search of a proper diagnosis of uterine cancer. Honey I got in the stirrups more times than Roy Rogers!
I didn’t bother to question my doctors when they said that I was too young for cancer. Frankly I was so glad to still be too young for anything! But all the while I continued to be misdiagnosed and mistreated for a peri-menopausal condition I didn’t have. If only I knew then what I know now!
Nine years later, The Nanny continues to be on the air alive and well around the world and so am I. Even better, I’ve found ways to turn my pain into purpose and lemons into lemonade. First by writing what became a New York Times best-seller, Cancer Schmancer, next founding the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring Stage 1 diagnosis, when it’s most curable, for all women with cancer, and most recently appointed Public Diplomacy Envoy for Women’s Health Issues at The U.S. State Department. Sometimes the best gifts come in the ugliest packages…
You can imagine why, as an actress turned women’s health advocate, I was immediately drawn to the gynecologic oncologists rock band called No Evidence of Disease (N.E.D.), when my colleague, Dr. G. Larry Maxwell, Head of Gynecologic Oncology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, brought them to my attention. It’s not too often that you find people in this world who have equal passions for both art and science, and far fewer who find ways to tie them together in one neat bow.
I consider myself lucky to have crossed paths with Dr. Nagarsheth, the author of this mind expanding book. Because, like me, he and his other doctor band members, are as passionate about fighting cancer as they are about creating meaningful art.
As if saving the lives of patients with cancer and producing an album with his rock band wasn’t enough, he had to go and write a book about it. So, of course, I had to read it. And, I’m thrilled that you’re joining me on this journey through music and cancer, too. It was chapter 7 that really blew my mind. Dr. Nagarsheth hit the nail on the head when he used the woodblock example, a simple musical exercise, as a metaphor to describe just how a doctor and patient should engage one another during an appointment. In the exercise, you have the music student holding a steady rhythm while the teacher plays another rhythm. Sounds easy enough, but it takes special skill to have two instruments playing two rhythms at one time in harmony. What does this have to do with cancer? Let me tell you, if I had been a medical consumer back then I would have had the skills to harmonize with my doctors and maintain my own rhythm instead of getting all caught up in theirs!
If you ever think your body’s trying to tell you something’s wrong, listen to it. Cancer at its earliest and most curable stages comes in whispers. Find your rhythm and don’t go losing it the second you walk through the doctor’s office doors. Sure you’re scared and those white coats can be intimidating, but you know your body best and don’t you forget it. Speak up, be specific, listen closely for a response and ask questions when you need help making sense of it all. As Dr. Nagarsheth cleverly points out, for doctors, musical listening focuses awareness on both sides of the story- on one side there’s the patient's fears, needs and questions, and on the other side is the doctor’s own desire to provide the best, most appropriate care. Transform from being a patient into a medical consumer. Become better partners with your physician because it can save your life. Take control of your body!
Part self cancer-care guide, part medical lesson, part music lesson, and part history lesson, Music and Cancer rocks. Enjoy, as I did, an unusual duet: how one outstanding surgeon took his passion - the learning, playing and writing of music - and used it to harmonize communication and the best quality care for his cancer patients and their loved ones. Which is music to my ears baby!
U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy for Women’s Health Issues
Founder and Visionary, Cancer Schmancer Movement