9 Songs That Help Me Face the Tough Days of Chronic Illness


What surprised me when I started writing this list was I didn’t think I would have more than three or four songs. Then I pulled up my frequently played song list and was really amazed to find out how many songs get me through both the bad days and the good ones. Most of the songs have one or two lines that mean the most to me — other songs are ones I listen to to help me get through hard days specifically, but also life in general. Some of the songs are upbeat and some let me wallow in misery because that sometimes helps on tough days.

1. “As Bad As It Gets” by Christine Lavin

There is no question in my mind that Christine Lavin has bad situations completely nailed with this song: “If you can make it through this, I’m willing to bet that you will make it through anything the world will throw your way.”

2. “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack

I call this Lee Ann Womack song my “asthma song” because of the line, “May you never take one single breath for granted.” I used to dance before I got super sick; I hope someday to dance again.

3. “Here’s To The Roses” by Joann & Monte

Joann & Monte remind me, “Don’t worry about tomorrow ‘cause you really only have today.”

4. “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell

Cole Swindell’s song of grief for his father echoes my grief for all the people I’ve lost due to their own illnesses as well as those friends who have drifted out of my life due to mine.

5. “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Miserables”

From my favorite musical of all time, “Les Miserables.” This line sums up everything I feel about my current life status: “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living. So different now from what it seemed; now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

6. “Don’t Stop Believing” by Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John makes a great case for looking to the positive: “Don’t stop believing you’ll get by; bad days will hurry by.”

7. “Memory” from “Cats”

Another favorite musical of mine is “Cats.” Grizzabella’s song resonates with me, particularly as I grow older: “I can smile at the old days, I was beautiful then. I remember the time I knew what happiness was, let the memory live again.”

8. “I Made It Through The Rain” by Barry Manilow

The fact that a Barry Manilow song made it onto my list will probably cause some eye rolling, but I really like his music because of the messages he sends with his words. This is one of my “reminder” songs: I’ve made it through the rain many times, and I will make it through again.

9. “The Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers

To close my music sessions, I always end with “The Mary Ellen Carter” sung by Stan Rogers. It’s a folk story about a ship that goes down and the crew that decides to save her. The final verse can speak to all of us who have faced health issues that seem overwhelming:

“All you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow; with smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go. Turn to and put our all your strength of arm and heart and brain, and like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

Rise again, rise again – though your heart it be broken and life about to end. No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend; like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.”

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