#boise #idaho #spirit #mindfulness
Backed by a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the University of California, San Francisco is launching a four-year study it hopes will provide the scientific evidence needed to really sing the praises of such arts programs for seniors.
“The goal is to provide scientific-based evidence that community arts programs can be used to promote health,” UCSF principal investigator Julene Johnson said. “Everyone says ‘Yes, of course they must be good for us,’ but we don’t have enough evidence yet.”
Dubbed Community of Voices, the study will evaluate how participation in these choirs influences cognition, mobility and overall well-being, from mood, loneliness and memory to strength and balance.
In total, 400 seniors will participate in weekly, 90-minute singing sessions for one year. Qualifying choir members must be at least 60 years old and require no prior choral experience. In exchange for three study interviews, every participant will be paid $105 and will be invited to perform in public.
The first has already formed at the Mission Neighborhood Center, and whether the study proves health benefits or not, participants are excited to be involved.
“This choir is good for me — my self-esteem is going up because I’m not in my house thinking my life has no value,” said Carlos Castro, 62, to the San Francisco Chronicle. Due to a chronic injury, Castro recently had to give up his career as a massage therapist.
As the number of seniors grows rapidly around the world, so does the pressure to pinpoint which lifestyles choices and activities will promote healthy aging.
One of the only other studies of senior choir participation found that participants reported better health, had fewer doctor visits and falls and added more activities to their routine when compared to seniors who did not participate in a choir.
It’s a sisterhood of cancer survivors… in spirit and support. I was diagnosed with stage four cancer at just 33 years young. To say this was the most terrifying shock of my life is still an understatement! I suffered the complete loss of my shoulder-length hair (the most emotionally painful moment) as a single young adult and endured three years of chemotherapy. Watching “Robin’s Journey” on ABC’s “20/20” earlier this year, as I cried and related to my sister cancer survivor, I noted multiple characteristics we share just like siblings!
1. Robin says when MDS was first mentioned to her, “and I did the thing we tell people not to do — I went on the internet.” I did this as well, and I freaked myself out unnecessarily. That’s why this is “Cancer with JOY’s” #1 “Don’t at Diagnosis!” I never heard Robin talk about www.cancer.net (oncologist-approved information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology); perhaps she doesn’t even know about this resource you need at diagnosis. Very few seem to, and part of my mission to is to bring a much-needed “dose of JOY” (quite literally & figuratively) to all those fighting cancer and those supporting them.
2. As Robin talked about her family and sharing the news of her diagnosis with them, she said, “I’m the baby. I’d already put them through quite a bit.” I’m the baby of my family too, sis!
Robin lost her beloved mother during her journey. I lost my beloved grandpa during my journey. He passed unexpectedly in a farming accident at age 86 when I was in my initial stage of receiving six chemo. treatments that put my cancer into remission. Then there were 12 more “maintenance chemos.” This was over two more years of chemo. Like Robin I too had a port embedded just under the skin in my left upper chest. What a long and hard road, but I found you can face “Cancer with JOY” (Don’t they say ‘Laughter is the best medicine??), and now I get to bring true joy, happiness, and comfort to others.
My grandpa passed on a Tuesday, and it was literally a matter of life or death at stage four that I stick to my chemo. schedule. So I had chemo and his funeral within 48 hours of each other! These were truly my darkest days. Yet I didn’t stay stuck there in that darkness throughout my journey. I always tell groups I speak to at hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and churches, “I don’t and you won’t face ‘Cancer with JOY’ every single day. This is all about how to have more good days than bad because you’ve been introduced to this idea!”
3. Do #10 in Chapter 4 of my book “Cancer with JOY” says, “Do control what you can.” Robin shared the same perspective on her hair loss when she said, “I wanted to be in control. I am in control … When my hair goes. I made this decision and it was the right decision.” I too chose to have my head shaved after taking a ‘hair loss shower’ and finding that the most emotionally painful moment of my journey. I transformed the complete loss of my shoulder-length hair into a positive (& I’d even say fun) experience by holding an “Online Facebook Fashion Show” where I modeled a variety of wigs that were different lengths, styles, and even colors! Family and friends “liked,” commented, and gave support and en’courage’ment while helping me choose favorite looks to sport during my period of baldness.
There are more ways I felt a strong sisterhood to Robin than these, including the naming of the IV pole, and leveraging the power of music (as a songwriter with my “Bright Side Effects” song). What’s the ‘BRIGHT Side Effect’ of hair loss you might ask? This meant I had “smoo-oo-th legs” and didn’t have to shave! It’s truly all about how we choose to respond to life’s obstacles! See the music video including pictures from my “Facebook Fashion Show” in the music video to “Bright Side Effects” here.
Robin said, “If the fear overtakes me it wins… Nowhere is it written we should not be happy… I wanna be happy.”
I wanna be happy too, and I think you do as well! My message is this: no one is happy they have cancer. But you can have cancer and still be happy!
To get a free “Daily Dose of JOY” throughout your journey, find “Cancer with JOY” on Facebook and Twitter.