Thursday, May 17, 2012

Podcasts that will change your life

The best gift I received during cancer treatment was my iPod (thanks, lovely husband). That thing kept me company through many a long walk, sleepless night, or lonely chemo session. And while the portable devices of many of my fellow cancer warriors blasted inspirational rock anthems or cooed soothing new age instrumentals, mine streamed talk. Talk, talk and more talk.

Podcasts were my anaesthetic - calming a brain clenched by anxiety and fear with, well, I guess nothing more complicated than perspective. Podcasts turned my attention from my own state to the state of the world. I listened to stories of political turmoil and war, profound poverty, childhood disease and economic crisis. I cried at the pain and sadness. But cheered for the inspiring people who battle injustice, advocate for the forgotten and bring hope to the hopeless. I listened to stories of health and wellness, logging advice on walking, nutrition and supplements that may help in my own fight. And, most importantly, I listened to stories of humour. Humour about movies, humour about food, humour about life.
Many people will tell you that you will fight cancer the way you live your life. I am someone who cries easily and laughs a lot. No big surprise that my brain would hunger for the two extremes as a way of taking its focus off the unknown.

I still rely on my portable device, an iPhone now (thanks again, lovely husband). Every night it tucks under my pillow waiting for a midnight sleepless spell. Every day it goes on my walks with me, filling my head with things more pleasant to think about than cancer and illness.

So, if you are going through a stressful time, could I recommend some podcasts? Try them out, then go exploring on your own. You will be amazed at what you find, and what you find comfort in.
  1. Stand Up, Walk Around, Even for Just 20 Minutes. Fresh Air, NPR. This interview between host Terry Gross and New York Times Phys Ed columnist and author will change the way you think about personal fitness. This was a life changing podcast for me. If you only listen to one podcast today, make it this one.
  2. Also from Fresh Air, Just What's Inside Those Breasts?, an interview with writer Florence Williams on her new book Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. I don't care if you have had breast cancer or not, you need to listen to this interview.
  3. Phil Donahue interviews Tavis Smiley and Cornel West on their work The Rich & the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Click here for Part One and here for Part Two. Listening to these interviews will make you wonder why you waste your time watching network news. PBS.
  4. This American Life and Retraction. One of the most popular stories shared last year on WBEZ's This American Life was Mike Daisey's story about Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer of iPads and other Apple products. Turns out, a lot of the original story didn't pass the sniff test, and Daisey admitted to weaving fiction into his facts. In this follow up interview, Ira Glass confronts Daisey about what he did and why. This is riveting stuff.
  5. Like to cook? Like to eat? Like to laugh till the stuff you have cooked and eaten is spurting out your nose? Check out any of Spilled Milk's episodes. I guarantee Molly and Matthew will give you 15 minutes of happy.
Now, I have to get going on my walk. Where's my phone?


  1. This was an awesome collection, Cynthia. Thank you for posting! Going to stand up now myself...

  2. Thanks, Renn! I have been standing 4 minutes out of every 5 ever since I heard that podcast - and man am I feeling it! Who knew?! :-)

  3. This is a fabulous list, Cyn. And a nice variety of topics too. Someone else was discussing that "breast book" just today on Facebook and I can't wait to read it. I'm really intrigued by your first recommendation as well as the others. I think I've been doing way too much sitting...

    And yes, you have a lovely husband!

  4. Hi, Nancy! Well I value your feedback - you are so wise and well-informed. I'm happy to share these kinds of resources. If you ever have any pod casts or websites you value, let me know and I'll share them. I hope you are well.

    (And I'll tell my husband you agree. :-) )

  5. I too liked the 20 minute fitness podcast. It makes a lot of sense. It explains Granny S that is for sure! Now do 20 squats, I just did!!

  6. I'm going to work up to that. Like with 1.