NEW YORKThe 24-year-old patient recuperating from a bone marrow
transplant in a hospital room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center was depressed and not communicating. The staff thought Lucanne
Magill, the hospital music therapist,
I went four times to his room with my guitar to ask if he would
like to hear a song, Ms. Magill, who is a PhD candidate, said
at a press briefing introducing Memorials new Integrative
Medicine Service. The fifth time, he said Play if you
want. So I sat in his room and played two soft songs that had
to do with the mountains and countryside.
One of the songs she chose was Take Me Home, Country Road
because I thought he might be thinking of going home.
During that song, he pulled out his tape recorder and began to record
Ms. Magill as she sang. This was the beginning of a series of visits
that were centered around music.
During one such visit, the patient told Ms. Magill he was very
concerned about his marriage and didnt know what to say to his
wife anymore. She suggested he write his wife a song, but he said he
did not know how to write songs. So I told him to write her a
letter, and I would put it to music. It took us about an hour.
The song became a wonderful gift for him to give to his wife, she
said, and it enhanced his self-esteem, as he was able to share the
song with staff members whenever they entered his room. It
helped him build a network of support, Ms. Magill said. He
began to feel freer to talk about his anger and frustration, and the
process also helped him cope better with his pain and suffering.
Music has the potential to soothe patients, distract them from their
pain, and quickly change their mood, she said. It helps reduce
the sense of suffering that compounds the pain experience.
Work With Children
Ms. Magill also works with outpatients and with families, including
the young children of cancer patients. I help them explore
their fears and fantasies within the framework of music, she
said. One little boy created his own fantasy song. It had to do
with a person who was being killed in a war, and it exposed a lot of
fear the child was having.
Creating songs not only gives children a chance to reveal their
feelings, she said, but also gives an opportunity for the music
therapist to substitute reality for the childs fantasies, which
helps decrease their anxiety. I remind children that their
parents sickness has nothing to do with anything theyve
done, and that the parent still loves them, Ms. Magill said.
Just seeing the place where her mother was staying helped ease the
fears of one little girl, she recalled.
Another little girl learned the song, Que Sera, which begins,
When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother
and includes several characters. All the characters in the song
became important figures to the little girl and gave her
strength, Ms. Magill said.
Ms. Magill, who has worked at Memorial Sloan-Kettering for more than
2 decades, is now a part of the hospitals new Integrative
Medicine Service, which offers patients complementary therapies such
as massage and meditation as well as music therapy and many others.
(For other articles on this new service, see Oncology News International,
Sept. 1999, page 1, and Nov. 1999, page 2.)
These therapies, Ms. Magill said, help patients feel in touch
with their own well being and sense of worth, which helps them cope
and helps the medical treatment go smoothly.