In Their Own Words

From participants in Humans in Harmony’s programs:

—In the foster care setting, we witnessed first-hand the ability for medicine to heal. We were invited to dinner at the foster home, where we met the eight girls who received our personalized songs. The home was equipped with old stereos and VHS players; the walls furnished awards, trophies, and children’s artwork. But underlying this seemingly warm home were tragic histories of trauma and neglect. In fact, more than 80% of these girls were sexually abused. Two of these girls even witnessed the murder of their own mother.

Listening to the songs over dinner with the foster girls was simply life-changing. One of the girls had memorized all the lyrics to her song. Closing her eyes, she began singing and swaying her arms: “You’ve got to be yourself, you’ve got to love yourself, be loud, be proud…”. She emotionally welled up and bashfully excused herself. Her clinician later informed us that she requests for her song to be played daily. Most touchingly, she uses it as her “calming down” song.

We were at a loss of words. Nothing philosophical or data-driven could trump the feeling of our amazement. Words could not truly encapsulate what was so obviously proof that creative song writing had a medically relevant importance.

Alex Vu, Columbia Medical School Student

—Last Summer, the members of my Pancreatic Cancer Support Group at New York Presbyterian Hospital were visited by a group of Health Profession Students from Columbia University – members of an organization called “Humans In Harmony” who have a passion for drama, music and the performing arts.

…In short – this amazing group of young people came to our meeting to talk to us, interview us, then went away to write a song for each one of us. My songwriter wasn’t able to be at the meeting so one of his colleagues interviewed me, took detailed notes and said that she would sit down with him and tell him my story.

The September meeting – the students returned and I finally got to meet my song-writer Mike, a second year medical student from Canada. We went off to a quiet corner of the unit and I got to see the expressions on his face as I told him the full story of my survival and my dedication to bringing love, hope and hugs to current pancreatic cancer patients and their families. He handed me a pair of ear buds and he played the song that he had written and recorded for me. By the end, I was in tears, hugging him. The smile on his face was magical – we both realized that in music, somehow he had managed to “capture” my spirit.

We went back to the meeting and all the songs were played. Laughter, joy, a celebration of life …. And the tears when they played the song that had been written for LB, a much-loved member of our Group who had passed away just a few days before the meeting.

We have just received our copies of the songs. My song “Better” is truly a gift. My heartfelt thanks to young “Doctor Mike” and all the wonderful members of Humans In Humanity. I have been going to almost every monthly meeting for over 5 years, what you did was so special. You gave us something more than just a song, you gave us your love.

Thank you.

John Whitley, Pancreatic Cancer Support Group, New York Presbyterian Hospital