I was diagnosed with acute
I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia one month before finishing my high school freshman year. It was shocking and devastating to me and my whole family. I had to leave school, be hospitalized, and begin intense chemotherapy immediately.
I spent the majority of the next eight months in the hospital and the clinic while undergoing the brutal treatment. Cancer took away so much from me – I lost my ability to attend school, to be with my friends, to sleep in my own bed, to go out of my house when I was allowed to go home, to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, to eat anything at one point because I had so many sores in my mouth… I lost all my hair, a lot of weight, and I lost all control over my life. It seemed impossibly hard to deal with cancer at times.
But I didn’t lose my love for music – and music helped me overcome all the hardships. I play several instruments – piano, violin, and guitar, I sing in an advanced children’s choir, and I compose music. I went to a magnet arts middle school, where I was the orchestra concertmaster, and I am currently in a magnet high school, where I also play in the orchestra. I was very lucky that the hospital where I was treated for cancer has a wonderful musical therapy program, and a very passionate musical therapy specialist, who helped me see the beauty in the world when I was in a lot of pain, very nauseous, desperate, and unsure whether my life will ever be the same. She brought me instruments to play, composed and sang songs with me, and let me be my old happy self through music.
During my prolonged stays at the hospital, I played several concerts for the other patients, doctors, nurses and the rest of the staff. I played my violin, while my implanted port was hooked to a machine that was transfusing me with blood or platelets, and the music therapist and I played keyboard and guitar and sang for everyone. Many in the “audience” – doctors, nurses, patients, staff – were moved to tears, and it made me feel as if I was helping them in my own little way through music to feel better about their own day and life. It felt good to give back to the people who were working around the clock to save my life. They had become my second family and I wanted to do something to make their lives a bit brighter and happier.
When I finished treatment, I vowed to return to the hospital often and continue to brighten the lives of patients, doctors, nurses, and staff there. My school friends and I formed a quintet and started going to the hospital for holidays (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.) and giving concerts. My friends are very happy to be a part of this, and I am thrilled I had found a way to give back to the people who took such great care of me when I needed it the most. And I will continue to do that and look for other ways to contribute to the betterment of society.
I don’t know yet what I’d do with my life, but I know music will always be a part of it. Maybe I will become the next music therapist at the hospital where I spent some of my darkest days in. After all, music is the one thing that cancer did not take away from me. It’s the one thing nobody or nothing will ever take away from me. And, as long as I can sing, play, and create music, I will use my talent and skills to make other peoples’ lives better – even if it is just for an hour between grueling chemotherapy treatments. It’s so worth it. I know it firsthand.