Our Stories

Music as a guide to recovery and healing

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My name is Frances Ancheta Becker, and I am a health care professional and an independent musician. My life journey so far has been a voyage of coming full circle. Ironically, it took a life threatening illness to make me come back home to who I really am.

I grew up in the multi-cultural San Francisco Bay Area. Coming from a Filipino American immigrant family, I always was around the different influences of so many cultures and traditions, especially in regards to music and helping others.

I always loved everything related to music–playing the piano and guitar, singing, dancing, writing song music and lyrics. My secret childhood dream was to become a diva rock star, playing for my fans all over the world. That desire to perform has always been inside of me. At the same time my family’s tradition of helping others resonated within me as well. On both sides of my family I have relatives who were doctors and nurses, so naturally the family encouraged me to pursue health care as a stable career. I ended up working for several years as a nurse, following the family tradition.

Over the years I struggled with my own self acceptance regarding my place in this world and where I belonged. I never stopped wanting to create. While I was grateful to have a stable and rewarding career, my nursing jobs were stressful and before I knew it I suffered burnout. I knew that there was still a part of my soul that wanted something more besides the daily grind in order to earn a steady paycheck.

I tried to bridge the gap between what I was doing in life and what my soul wanted by going back to school and getting a graduate degree in recreational therapy. It was still a health care related profession, but this time I was able to use music, poetry, games, gardening, movement, and other forms of creativity in helping patients. In my soul I knew I was making the right choice even though I was earning less money. But it hurt me when professional colleagues and family members criticized my choice and could not understand why I made the decision to switch careers. Some were even bold enough to tell me that I shamed my family and I squandered my nursing career.

Many years passed, and I struggled with what others expected out of me and what I myself wanted to do with my life. With my music dreams, I attempted to pursue a semi-professional career as a musician, playing gigs and releasing two albums. But my lack of confidence and ignorance in how to promote myself as an independent musician, and the many comments, criticisms, and suggestions from well meaning family members and friends who were not musicians really discouraged me from pursuing anything further. After experiencing several difficult relationships, I settled down, got married, had a family, and resigned myself to believing that one can’t get everything they want in life…or so I thought.

One day in 2017, I realized that the lump that showed up in my breast was not going away–in fact, it was getting bigger and I was scared. My husband urged me to see the doctor. After specialist exams and tests, I was diagnosed in April 2017 with Stage 3B breast cancer, at the age of 42. My treatment involved a double mastectomy, lymph node removal, chemotherapy, radiation, and meds. The experience forced me to face life and death issues in the face–a lot earlier than most people.

After a lifetime of conditioned beliefs within me to suppress my wants and needs, to not be selfish, to always put others first so that nobody is disappointed in me, my primary doctor told me: “Frances, you’re always putting others first and helping others. Let me be the one to help you.” And with that statement I surrendered. I allowed myself to be open to others helping me and supporting me. My cancer experience revealed to me the family, friends, doctors, nurses, therapists, and support group network who were really there to provide support, and which ones who were scared of my condition and backed away due to their own discomfort. Thankfully I survived the treatment with no evidence of disease so far for the past 3 years.

During my cancer treatment, I ended up turning back to music to help me cope and process everything going on in my life. Feeling inspired, I wrote two albums’ worth of songs, finishing up songs I never completed and writing new songs. It took surviving cancer to give me the will and confidence back to be myself and not care what others think. I had a dream in which my friend (who had passed away from pancreatic cancer) asked me “Are you joining me upstairs?”, to which I replied “I’m not quite ready yet, I still have business to take care of.” I took it as a sign that I needed to keep living as I wanted, including pursuing music again.

Thankfully, today I am balancing my work as a creative arts therapist in a local hospital while taking care of my family and pursuing my music career. At the start of 2020, I released my first album in 8 1/2 years. It was the product of all of my hard work and determination–the need to express myself, record the album, and share my story has been a huge part of my healing and continued wellness. Through this experience I’ve met so many interesting people, and now I have appreciative fans in different parts of the world. After everything I’ve gone through, I value the need for self-care and self-compassion. We all deserve to do and experience what makes us happy and alive. When we do this and are authentic, we are fulfilling God’s purpose in this lifetime, for we are all have purpose and are a part of God’s universal divine plan.

The song I am sharing with you from my latest album, called “Back Again: You Never Went Away” is about: 1) one of my favorite songwriters Robert Howard whose song “The Coming of Grace” was the song I listened to most during my cancer recovery; 2) my appreciation to those who have unconditionally accepted me and supported me during my recovery journey.

Thanks for reading my story. Stay well, stay strong, and be your authentic self!