He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:3 New Revised Standard Version
This is one of the six passages in which the psalmist refers to a new song, all of which are supposed to be praise. But I want to protest; I liked the old song just fine, thank you very much. I had worked really hard, more than half a century, really, to get the song of my life just the way I wanted it. It included faith and flowers and friends, good health, good food, and just enough work. Cancer makes me feel as I did when I auditioned to be in a choir I thought was going to perform Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, only to discover that we were doing the Frances Poulenc’s Gloria. I soon found that all modern French composers are not alike! And some days, having cancer feels like moving from Gloria to Requiem. I don’t like this new song.
The new song sometimes requires singing some jangling, discordant notes in a minor key. I experience a dramatic pause for about a month before my regular blood marker tests, with a crazy movie-track theme “whatifit’sbackwhatifitsback?” running in my head, regardless of anything else that’s going on.
The great thing about singing in a choir is that mine is not the only voice. When I’m feeling as though only a dirge will do, someone else is doing a riff on alleluia. A good choir requires many voices, well-trained and not, and a director to guide them. Nobody does cancer alone, either. Family and friends are there to provide support, so long as we are clear about what we need/want. The song will likely sound different than the one we used to sing; we may sing the blues instead of hymns some days. But in the great songbook of our lives, we sing a new song of praise: for skilled medical professionals, new treatments that keep us alive, and all the kindness we receive. It may not be the song we would have chosen, but it can still be a song of joy.