Over the past two years, Loolwa Khazzoom has launched two of the most imaginative and high-impact programs the Lloyd Symington Foundation has ever funded in its 35-year history. In 2020, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her band Iraqis in Pajamas successfully completed their innovative project, “Cancer Healing Adventure,” which featured Loolwa’s song, “Cancer Is My Engine,” an original, hard-driving synthesis of contemporary rock and ancient Jewish liturgy from the Middle East. In 2021, she is implementing an equally bold and visionary program, “Kitchen Pirates,” which features improvisational and inspirational cooking by Loolwa in her own kitchen, dressed up as a pirate. One of her primary intentions, she emphasizes, is to replace fear with fun.
Loolwa’s programs, very much like her own life, illustrate the human capacity for deep transformation. Transformation, in fact, is at the heart of our mission as a small, grassroots foundation — supporting cancer programs which can shift consciousness in fundamental ways and engender healing at the deepest level. Loolwa is a perfect match for our organization.
In addition to her uncompromising vision and myriad gifts, what I really admire about Loolwa is her indefatigable commitment to whatever project she undertakes. Loolwa never gives less than 100% and will do whatever it takes to meet her goals and manifest her vision. What I find particularly moving is that, after all the anguish and agony suffered by the Iraqi people following the American invasion of Iraq in 2001, Loolwa, a daughter of Iraqi immigrants, is bringing the riches of a very old and distinguished Middle Eastern culture so as to relieve suffering in a country which is still learning how to treat all of its citizens in a humane and respectful way.
– Toby Symington, Executive Director, Lloyd Symington Foundation
Loolwa Khazoom is one of the most uniquely powerful and creative people I have ever met. She has been a friend, a consultant, a colleague, and a patient at different times. I recall her experience with thyroid cancer and the remarkable intelligence, research, and deep thoughtfulness she put into making her decisions about treatment. In her case, she decided to go with an intensive immersion in natural healing, involving dietary changes, deep mind/body/spirit work, dance, and natural remedies. She’s obviously been successful, as this is now her tenth year living well and having no progression or spread of cancer; and all credit goes to her and her fierce belief in following the life that her deep soul guides her in. This song and video, “Cancer is my Engine,” is just a taste of the passion and commitment that Loolwa brings not only to her healing, but to everything she does.
Decisions in cancer care are complex, and very deeply personal. Some cancers respond well to conventional treatments and others do not. Some people respond well to conventional treatment while others cannot tolerate them. Every person is unique, and every cancer is also unique. Loolwa’s story does not mean that everyone should choose natural cancer treatment as an alternative to conventional treatment, but it does mean that we should open our hearts and minds to the remarkable healing abilities we each have within us, and learn to nourish them, so that whatever course we choose in our cancer journey, we are an active agent rather than a passive bystander.”
– Martin L. Rossman, MD, Author, Fighting Cancer from Within: How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing
Pay attention to Loolwa Khazzoom, especially if you ever had cancer. Music and dance became her path to healing, along with a robust program of organic foods, botanicals, and nutrients. I am a medical oncologist and hematologist who worked with Ms. Khazzoom as a patient from 2012 to 2014, and watched her large malignant thyroid nodules (Hurthle cell tumor) stabilize as she found her voice, and made cancer her engine, as the song goes.
To me, cancer represents not an enemy, but a call for transformation. Loolwa transformed her life profoundly, followed her intuition wherever it took her, and healing was the result. The joy that this transformation brought into her life is in every breath of her music, in every tone of her chants, in the fluid movements of her dancing (in which she had found healing from chronic pain, which preceded her healing from thyroid cancer). We can all learn from Loolwa Khazzoom. And enjoy her music.
Although her nodules have become significantly smaller over the years, they have waxed and waned, in direct correlation to the amount of stress vs the amount of joy in her life. Loolwa has learned to use them as a “biomarker” feedback system – telling her when she is “on course” or “off course.” In her own words, “You can live a healthy, vibrant, and joyful life, even if cancer is still there somewhere. So that you’re not living well despite cancer, but you’re living well because of cancer.” Cancer has become not only her engine, but also her life navigation system.
– Dwight L. McKee MD, CNS, ABIHM, Author, After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer
Loolwa is a force of nature. It’s no surprise to us that the cancer wilted beneath her phenomenal presence and no wonder also, that her courageous heart expresses itself so eloquently in the hurricane of her gritty music.
– Deva Premal & Miten, Billboard chart-topping musicians
Loolwa Khazzoom’s journey from cancer to healing demonstrates how attention to emotions, attitudes, and lifestyle can serve as powerful factors promoting recovery. Her experience should give hope and guidance to anyone facing serious health challenges. She reminds us that healing forces originate from within, not only from without. In a world enchanted with high-tech approaches to health and wellness, this is a message we desperately need to remember.
– Larry Dossey, MD, NY Times Bestselling Author, The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things, Executive Editor, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing
Iraqis in Pajamas song, “Cancer Is My Engine,” is the soundtrack for the epigenetics revolution. This soulful music, inspirational lyrics, and captivating music video awaken us to the fact that with a positive mindset and healthy lifestyle choices, we can heal ourselves from chronic illness, no matter what our genetic predisposition. Through her bold decision to follow her heart through a cancer diagnosis, songwriter Loolwa Khazzoom is now living proof that music is truly medicine and that with the right mindset, a cancer diagnosis can serve as the portal to an extraordinary life.
– Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Author, Change Your Genes, Change Your Life
“Cancer Is My Engine” is a wonderful story about our body’s tremendous ability to heal—if we give it a chance.
– Joseph Pizzorno, ND, Author, The Toxin Solution, Editor, Integrative Medicine, A Clinician’s Journal
“Cancer Is my Engine” showcases the story that with true resilience and faith, one can conquer anything – including illness. It’s the only true direction to healthcare: self-care. It’s the Hippocratic Way!
– Maria Benardis, Gourmand award-winning author and health coach
I have always found Loolwa Khazzoom as both an original and a super honest artist. In an art scene, and an entire world for that matter, desperately lacking those exact qualities, her presence and work are a blessing.
– Shaanan Streett, platinum artist, Hadag Nahash
Loolwa Khazzoom is a brilliant lyricist and a dedicated artist, with the ability to teach through her art. Loolwa and her band, Iraqis in Pajamas, bring deeply personal truth through song and lyric and make us think through our own human reaction, through their profound and often cathartic performances. We need more of this! We need more art that makes us think in this turbulent world. Loolwa is the pearl in the oyster of a nation in great need of more awareness and enlightened thinking.
– Lara Lavi, Grammy Award-winning musician
Hearing Loolwa Khazzoom live is like being struck by a thunderbolt. Her music will crack you open and get under your skin in the best way. Her lyrics are raw and visceral, combining prayer with deeply personal truth about the reality of what it means to be a woman living in the world. Her music will have you reevaluating what it means to be human. It’s both ancient and modern— holding a startling tension between the sacred and the beautiful chaos of being alive.
– Katie Rudman, event producer
Iraqis in Pajamas! Their live performance emotes an unencumbered power of grief, rage, and delight thru song and storytelling, power chords and a capella nusach (Jewish melodic chants). Hear them, and you will know the pulse of modernity entangled with centuries-past.
– Stefanie Brendler, event producer
The Flying Camel, Loolwa Khazzoom’s anthology on Middle Eastern and North African Jewish women, is a fantastic resource for exploring the intersections of multiple identities. Now Loolwa’s band, Iraqis in Pajamas, brings this learning to life, with music to help heal both personal pain and rifts between communities that are so often considered separate. Loolwa’s blend of Iraqi Jewish melodies, punk rock, and audience participation opens so many important conversations: about the diversity within Jewish communities, about violence against women, and about personal activism, to name a few. We enjoyed Loolwa’s session very much, and so will you.
– Jonathan Branfman PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor, Cornell University
Iraqis in Pajamas music is powerful, and Loolwa’s voice is beautiful.
– Madeline Sosin, musician
When I was introduced to Iraqis in Pajamas music, I was profoundly moved, not only by the band’s talent, but by the messages they share. Their songs somehow manage to be deeply personal, but also universal. Hearing their songs and lyrics gives you an instant kinship and connection with the band, because you hear the lyrics and feel completely understood. The band takes very real experiences and translates them into music that sticks with you long after the song is over.
– Cathy Tilton, social media strategist
I encountered Loolwa’s important work during a crucial time in my life. Growing up a Persian Jew in Los Angeles, I struggled with reconciling my ancient heritage and cultural norms with my daily life as a contemporary American girl. Loolwa’s work provided excellent guidance and a framework for the complexity surrounding the history of my identity and how it fits into our modern world. She has an absolutely unparalleled dedication to empowering voices often brushed aside by history, and Iraqis in Pajamas is another perfect example of how she eloquently translates identity and culture into art. We need this kind of storytelling, not only to remind us of our past, but also to push us into the future.
– Arezu Hashemi, Jewish community organizer