August 22nd, 2011
07:14 AM ET
Editor's note: Beth Nielsen Chapman, besides her own recordings, has written songs for many top artists from Willie Nelson to Elton John and has penned numerous hits such as Faith Hill’s Grammy nominated mega-hit "This Kiss." Beth also teaches workshops internationally on songwriting and creativity and serves on the Honorary Board of Healthy Child Healthy World.
Just a few changes to the Joni Mitchell song, “Clouds,” could sum up my relationship to cancer. “I’ve looked at cancer from both sides now....”
Having lost my husband to cancer in 1994 and then surviving breast cancer myself in 2000, I have experienced two perspectives on this journey no one ever wants to take.
I’m a singer-songwriter, first and foremost. My songs have been an important part of my healing through these big life events. But I’m also a teacher of what I call “Creative Flow.”
In 2009, doctors discovered I had a benign brain tumor, which was fast growing and pressing on my left frontal lobe, the part of the brain whose function includes putting emotions into words - a.k.a. writing lyrics.
See, the lines to those songs were already “created” but they were just bottled up on the other side of the impasse of that brain tumor, which was, simply put, blocking the nuts and bolts functioning of the language center of my brain. Once that tumor was out of the way the flow was unencumbered once again. Of course there were a few weeks of swelling and the clearing of the anesthesia, but the feeling of being “stuck” was gone and my trust and faith in inspiration returned. The songs were finished not long after.
This experience reconfirmed what I have always taught - and truly believe - about creative flow. Many of us have been disconnected from our creative source. But it never abandons us, and it’s up to us to keep the creative pathway clear.
When I’m teaching one of my workshops there’s just nothing more fun than to see the pilot light go back on in someone’s eyes as they start to feel that reconnection. We are all creative and the flow of creative spirit will always be available to us if allowed to come in.
I believe the same is true for hope. Like creativity, I believe hope is something that does not come from our brains or intellect. If we consider that our brains are like hard drives that store and organize and analyze all that has been input, creativity and hope are like going online. This realm feels much more like an expansive field of endless possibilities. This is where the ability to “beat the odds” lives.
I recently learned of two close friends (on different coasts) who have stage 4 cancers. Though I am happy to offer advice and comfort to them as someone who’s “been there,” I am still struck by how deeply I am affected as I watch them navigate the fear and grief, hear the hard facts and dance with hope.
With these friends I’m revisiting and cementing what I’ve come to know about cancer. Unlike the clouds in Joni’s song, cancer is just not OK. It's not OK that so much in our environment is toxic. But it spite of this challenge, if we open up ourselves and those we love to creativity, to faith, and most importantly, to hope, we can begin to heal.
From around the web
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.