Gabe was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996 and had to undergo 38 months of cancer treatments. Tough times for a two-year old boy. Yet Gabe survived and he’s off treatment for almost 10 years now. What helped him and his family through the difficult years of chemotherapy was music.
Music therapy (also known as or related to melodic intonation therapy, psychoacoustics, and biomusicology) has been used in different ways to promote health. It has been used in stress management and relaxation and very recently also in the management of medical problems such as stroke and neurological disorders. In people with epilepsy for example, certain pieces such as Mozart’s paino sonata K448 helps reduce the number of seizures. In children, music has been used in the management of autism, learning disabilities, and posttraumatic stress disorder. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy interventions may be designed to
- promote wellness
- manage stress
- alleviate pain
- express feelings
- enhance memory
- improve communication
- promote physical rehabilitation
Researchers at the Massachussets Institute of Technology are doing research on Music Mind, and Health with directions towards music augmentation of healthy and ill individuals. Alzheimer’s disease and austism are two of diseases that the researchers at looking at.
Music therapy in cancer patients is a relatively new field. Gabe’s mother Lisa White and her family launched Rock Against Cancer, a not-for-profit organization which provides music therapy to pediatric oncology units and arranges music-related events for kids with cancer.
A 1995 study by researchers at the Center for Music Research of the Florida State University in Tallahassee reports:
“Music therapy is a profession which meets multiple physical, social, and psychological needs. Music therapists can facilitate health objectives by reducing the intensity or duration of pain, alleviating anxiety, and decreasing the amount of analgesic medication needed. Rehabilitative objectives can include activities which incorporate exercise, range of motion therapy, or gait training. Reduction of fear, anxiety, stress, or grief are common psychological objectives. Music therapy is particularly effective in promoting social objectives such as increased interaction, verbalization, independence, and cooperation; enhanced relationships with health care personnel and family members; and increased stimulation during long-term hospitalization or isolation. Counseling techniques are often paired with music to achieve emotional objectives such as expression, adjustment, stability, or locus of control.”
Indeed in the case of children with cancer like Gabe who had to go through chemo and radiation therapy, music can be a great help in surviving through the horrible side effects of these treatments. For the parents and caregivers of these children, music can also help ease stress and anxiety.