I’m a songwriter. And sometimes songs come out of me and it’s not quite what I intended, but what the song demanded. A few years ago a song came to me. One of my good friend’s battle with cancer took a turn for the worse. This followed several other friends having run ins with cancer and my beloved aunt having died from it years before. The song that came to me was – “FU Cancer!”.
Truthfully, what came to me was the full monty, not the initials. In 26 years of songwriting I had never used an expletive, but this song kept returning with the biggest cussing out it could muster. I couldn’t seem to tone it down. Cancer did deserve a good cussing out, though, and it felt great to sing.
But… I didn’t finish the song. Fast forward 3 years… 2 weeks after one of my friends lost her battle, I was diagnosed with my crazy rare cancer. I was told my chemo could take my senses of touch and hearing, making it pretty hard to be a singer/musician. So, 2 days before starting chemo we threw a party to celebrate all our blessings – friends, singing, playing and my hair! That morning, with a different perspective, I finished the song. John had never heard it. I pulled aside my musician extraordinaire friends Annie & Rod Capps and showed them what I had. They listened, we walked on stage and played it. John, too, learning as he went. It felt so empowering to sing it, and to hear the room full of friends chanting along like an anthem. It was like a battle cry, a victory cheer. And it bolstered me up right into chemo.
Many friends asked if they could get the song for someone they love with cancer. They thought it could lift spirits. Not that I felt like doing much of anything after a round of chemo, but If I was ever going to offer this song to the world, I’d better do it while I could still hear and play guitar. So, 2 days before my 2nd round of chemo, we recorded it.
(The party & recording session are captured in the trailer to the music video at youtube.com/allisondowney). The act of creation is life affirming. The act of singing is an expression of love and joy. As much energy as it cost me during chemo to take on a recording session, it offered me back –myself. When cancer comes it takes over everything. It’s hard to feel like yourself when you don’t feel like yourself, or look like yourself, and can’t do the things that make you feel like you. Creating, singing, recording – this IS me and it felt like I took the reigns back from cancer for that day.
In editing the song, and listening to it I realized that the song is not just about cussing out cancer, but as a woman fighting cancer it is an act of defiance, an expression of empowerment over cancer. Laughter and music are healing. To laugh and sing in the middle of hell is defiant. The song’s final title became “Can’t Take My Heart (FU, Cancer!)” – yes, I’m still cussing out cancer, but the message is that cancer has taken much from me and may take more, but it can never take my heart.
This sense of empowerment is something I want to share with anyone else dealing with the devastating effects of this disease as a survivor or caretaker. If this message could give a lift (or even a laugh) to someone you know, share the song (censored versions available) and/or video with them. You can listen to the song here. And, Sing it, Baby!