Sometimes being in the cancer world is tough, sometimes joy gets hard to find.

I was at a point a few weeks ago where I was kind of down. The cancer community is a tough place to be, there’s a lot of sadness and grief there. I also work in a hospital intensive care unit. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the sadness and struggle that surrounds me. I am also getting ready to send my youngest off to college…both of my kids will live away from home next year. We are close and I will miss them a lot. And there’s a lot that goes on with kids who are on the cusp of independence. They still love and need you, but look forward to life on their own, to living separate and independent lives. You want them to be independent adults, but still feel a loss.

So, I was needing to find some joy. I wanted to feel really good and lighthearted for a bit.

One of the things that brings me great joy is playing piano. I’d wanted to learn to play since I was 5 years old. I finally started to take lessons at age 29 and actually learned to improvise popular piano music and began to play professionally a few years later. I used to play a lot, but sometimes life gets in the way, and I hadn’t played for a long time. So, I played for a little bit at home. Then I decided to do an impromptu visit to the soup kitchen I used to run and to play for the guests there, rusty as I was. I just left my house and showed to the soup kitchen unannounced. I played while the guests were eating lunch, like I did a few years ago. The only thing better than playing for myself is playing for others, knowing the music brings back happy memories for them, seeing them smile. I connect with others via music in a way I can’t with words sometimes.

It turned out it was the best thing I could have done. I got to see all of the people who work at the soup kitchen who are like family to me, for a few years we worked together every week; shared our troubles while we worked, teased each other, celebrated each others birthdays, successes and set-backs. We even made time to get together for lunch and dinner when we weren’t working at the soup kitchen. I’d missed everyone there. I was treated so well, lots of hugs, lots of catching up, people applauded my piano playing. I felt very loved. I did my best to play requests. Strange thing about me, I am horrible at remembering names, but I always remember the guest’s favorite songs. I had a great time, and definitely felt joyful. I went back to play again this week.

I think we need to make a priority of doing what brings us joy. I think it’s as important as chemo, as important as a healthy diet, as important as breathing and sleeping. We make time for those things as we see them as priorities, but I think finding what brings us joy should be just as much as a priority, it’s vital. It’s not selfish to do what makes us happy as individuals, it helps us recharge and be able to give more to others and to ourselves. Whether it’s alone time, time in nature, music, or reading a novel…whatever brings us joy needs to be our priority. Seeking joy is a healthy thing to do, we need to make the time.