Chemo Duck Chatter : October 2012

I’m Still Me

It is difficult for children to wrap their head around fractions, conjunctions and how the gravity keeps us on the ground. We can only imagine how difficult it must be for a child to wrap their head around being diagnosed with cancer.

At the core of Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program, is a mission to ease that confusion for children and to provide medically sound resources to help them relate to what is happening to their bodies and lives. It is this exact desire to help her own son that inspired Lu Sipos to create the very first Chemo Duck for her son, Gabe.

Books, cartoons and paper dolls have all been incorporated into the therapeutic tools used to help prepare children for the various treatments they will experience while battling cancer. Then Lu heard a podcast featuring an educational hip-hop song created by a group called Flocabulary.

Lu approached the New York-based company about creating a cartoon promoting self-esteem for children living with cancer. Flocabulary typically works within the educational field and has videos in more than 15,000 schools across the country. When they learned about Chemo Duck they were immediately sold on the idea. The two companies hope the result of their collaboration will motivate cancer patients to not give up on their identity and will-power and boost their self-esteem.

“We had never done anything with the healthcare industry, so this was a chance to do something impactful and help kids who are struggling with cancer treatments,” says Alex Rappaport, founder and CEO of Flocabulary. “If we put a smile on just one kid’s face, then we have done our part.”

Flocabulary was started in 2004 by Alex Rappaport and Blake Harrison, the same year that Lu created Chemo Duck. The online platform delivers educational hip-hop songs and videos to students in grades K-12. It is now used in more than 15,000 schools, reaching 5 million students weekly.

“Our mission is to motivate kids and help them reach their full academic potential, not only by raising test scores but by fostering a love of learning in every child,” said Alex Rappaport, CEO of Flocabulary.

“We were touched by Gabe’s story, and the idea of Chemo Duck,” he said. “We had never done anything with health or medicine, so this was a chance to do something really positive and help kids who are struggling with cancer treatment.

“We saw this as a natural extension of our mission and if we put a smile on just one kid’s face, then we have helped do our part.”

Flocabulary works with a team of artists from around the country to perform its tunes. Atlanta resident, Dillon Maurer performs the rap “I’m Still Me” for Chemo Duck. Rappaport said Dillon was able to bring some personal passion to the song.

“Not only did he understand the learning objectives,” said Rappaport, “this project was personal to him.”

Maurer lost a childhood friend to cancer.

The use of music was important to Sipos because of the research done about the power of the healing power of music. Studies have shown that using music in medical settings can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress and assist with pain management.

“Music can be the venue for talking about feelings,” said Sipos. “It’s a perfect way for children to express how they feel, especially when it is difficult for them to find the words.”

Sipos said the use of “autobiographical” songs, which bring to mind a certain memory, have proven to boost a person’s ability to recall information.

According to “Music-Memory Connection Found in Brain” on the LiveScience website, Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at University of California-Davis identified the area in the brain used to remember such songs.

“What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head,” stated Janata in 2009. “It calls back memories of a particular person or place…”

His report showed that the medial prefrontal cortex became more active when subjects heard autobiographical songs, compared to listening to songs unconnected with their lives.