I Had To Take A Month Off Of Playing My Instrument.. Because Of Cancer – Jena Vangjel | Ep. 33


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This episode of the podcast features my good friend Jena Vangjel. Jena was telling me this story when she was playing a few shows with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and I knew I needed to get this as an episode for everyone to hear. In this episode, she tells the story of how she was diagnosed with “Hashimoto’s Hyperthyroidism”, and her journey recovering from having her thyroid removed.

For those like me who aren’t sure what that condition is, you can find a description of it here. Here are a few of the takeaways I thought were interesting from her episode:


Listen To Your Body

The doctors told Jena that she wouldn’t be able to play her instrument for two weeks. Even though they said it would be ok to play when those two weeks had passed, she said she still didn’t feel ready. Even if things aren’t as serious as what Jena experienced, the saying, “Better safe than sorry” seems to apply here. If you are battling an injury, make sure to listen to your body. Aggravating a healing injury might set you back even further than where you began.


Attitude Is Everything

One of the most stand out qualities that Jena displays is the power of a positive mindset. She does admit she struggled from time to time, but generally speaking, she embodies what it means to step forward into uncharted territory and show bravery and courage. I especially liked what she had to say about her first notes after she had taken a full month off of playing. Here’s what she said:

I was pretty happy. I didn’t care that it felt weird. Actually, I shouldn’t say that I didn’t care. I cared, but I was so giddy about being able to play that I thought, “I’ll figure it out, I’ll work through this. The important part is I know they didn’t mess up a nerve when they did my surgury. I’m vibrating and making a sound.. I’ll figure it out.”


Obstacles Can Become Opportunities

Jena describes how even though the thought of taking a month off of playing was very hard for her to deal with, she also saw it as an opportunity to address some changes she felt she needed to make in her playing. Starting from scratch allowed her build her playing the way she wanted to from the ground up. In life, there are all sorts of obstacles we will face. If we can learn from Jena, changing those obstacles into opportunities gives us the ability to have a much healthier outlook on our journey.


Jena is also doing amazing work in Baton Rouge, LA, working to bring music to inmates in prisons and homeless shelters. Click here to read a great interview with Jena about the value she is providing her community!


Here’s a Spotify playlist of music Jena enjoys listening to!

Jena Vangjel – ep. 33


Until next time,