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One Song Per Cycle – Josh’s Story

US musician Josh explains how making music is helping him navigate chemotherapy treatment for a brain tumour.

musician Josh Martin poses with his guitar

Musician Josh Martin, from Buffalo, USA, was diagnosed with an Oligodendroglioma Grade 2 tumour in August last year.  Continuing to make music is helping him cope.

Josh’s symptoms, which started around two years ago, included hallucinations in his left field of vision. A visit to an optometrist found that his eyes were fine, however, and it was thought that he was suffering from visual migraines.  But when the episodes grew increasingly severe, Josh’s family urged him to ask for an MRI.

A brain tumour was the last diagnosis he was expecting.

I was completely shocked that they found a mass in my brain. And I will never forget the moment when my surgeon told me officially it was cancer. Aside from having the visual hallucination episodes, I am a generally healthy young person.  I eat well, exercise, and have a nice balance in my life.  I have a strong family history of cancer, but I did not expect that I would have it at only 36 years old.”

Josh Martin

How music is helping – one song per cycle

Shortly after his diagnosis, in October 2022, Josh relocated to Houston, Texas, for seven weeks, to receive Proton Radiation Therapy at MD Anderson (Texas Research Institute).

He also researched support groups and communities, and has found useful groups online.

Josh Martin and partner standing in front of a wall at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas

As he embarked on a series of chemotherapy treatment cycles earlier this year however, lifelong musician Josh found music a source of comfort and inspiration.  His new music project, Thought Trials, will last for the duration of his treatment, and will document his experience of chemotherapy through song.

“I have been writing music for a long time, but I’ve been writing even more since I was diagnosed. I already knew that all the music I’ve been writing the past eight months was going to be driven primarily by my cancer diagnosis and treatment process.  It’s impossible for it not to be.  I remember thinking that six week cycles are kind of the perfect amount of time to plan, write, record, mix and release one song.  And if I set a challenge for myself to write one song for every cycle – this would give me something positive to look forward to during each cycle.  Its exciting releasing new music into the world and sharing it with people.  I wanted to try to spin some type of positive out of something as miserable as receiving chemotherapy.

“So far I have gone through two chemo cycles and I have finished two songs.  It’s been wonderful.  For each song I have booked a couple days at an Airbnb somewhere a couple hours away – just so I can remove myself from my day-to-day environment and really take some time and space for myself.  It feels a bit selfish sometimes, but I know this is good for my mind and body.  Just exploring a new place, creating new art, and then sharing it with people that love me.

Musician Josh in a hospital bed following surgery for a brain tumour

“Every moment I am spending writing music is a moment I am not dwelling on my cancer.  And that right there is priceless.  The first time I sat down to play music after my diagnosis, I had my headphones on for two hours or so.  When I took the headphones off, I immediately started crying.  Reality came rushing back.  I learned then just how powerful of a distraction and tool music can be. I also was afraid that my drive and passion to create might dwindle and be overtaken by my fear of my disease – but actually the opposite has happened.

You can listen to the songs Josh has created so far here:

Shining a light on brain tumours – May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month in the US.

“One year ago I had no idea that May was Brain Cancer Awareness Month. But now that I am in “the club”, it seems to be an EXTREMELY prominent event that I can’t ever escape on social media or at the hospital!

“Being a young adult trying to navigate a cancer diagnosis comes with its own unique obstacles and challenges.

“Although brain tumors are rare, they can be absolutely devastating to patients and their loved ones.  I am lucky enough to have one of the “good” brain cancers (slow growing, reacts well to treatment), but some of them act so fast and are so deadly that they might not even give a person enough time to say goodbye. 

“I’d like to see more research go towards slowing and ending brain tumours so that patients can have longer and a higher quality of life. And this is a problem that goes beyond just brain cancer, but I want to see more people have access to the quality health care that exists here in the United States, without having to beg and battle insurance companies.”