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Music’s Mental Therapy

Learning a new instrument restored confidence
Loida Valdes Rodriguez bought herself a new ukelele for her birthday

Loida Valdes Rodriguez bought herself a new ukelele for her birthday


hen Loida Valdes Rodriguez began treatment for stage II breast cancer, she felt “down and very alone.” Her spirits worsened as the world locked down for COVID-19 in 2020, just as the side effects of chemotherapy were kicking in.

“I was very tired,” she said. “Even when I thought I should be feeling stronger, I was dragging all the time.”

At the suggestion of her Sylvester oncologists, Rodriguez looked into the Cancer Survivorship Program’s offerings and tried yoga and art therapy, massage, and exercise. “I became a frequent flyer,” she joked. “I was into everything.” But what spoke to her heart turned out to be music therapy. The ukulele, to be precise. Music therapist Mary Adelyn Kauffman, D.M.A., suggested she learn to play on a child-size instrument with colored strings.

“I think the challenge of learning helped me a lot. It was like mental therapy,” Rodriguez said.

That — excuse the pun — is music to Dr. Kauffman’s ears. “As a music therapist here at Sylvester, my goal in cancer survivorship is not only to help people relax or put them in a good mood for a short period of time, but also to teach them tools — using music, of course — that can help them help themselves and live their best possible lives during and after cancer treatment,” she explained.

The program offers individual and group music therapy sessions for people in all stages of cancer survivorship.

For her birthday, Rodriguez bought herself her own ukulele. The classes, she says, “have given me my confidence back.”