Steve Kelly found music in an infusion machine.
Steve, a retired college professor and musician, has lymphoma. For seven years, he’s been getting chemotherapy at the Cancer Care & Infusion Center at Northfield Hospital. He has spent a lot of time listening to the infusion machine that delivers his medication.
“When the machine needs to be reset, it plays three notes. I realized one day that it’s the same first three notes of the song ‘I Got Rhythm,’” Steve says. “I thought, sometime I should write a little ditty that uses these notes.”
Steve used the notes to compose “Chemo Blues,” rearranging the three tones into different chords to express the many emotions that come with cancer.
“The machine is both an instrument of our cure, and an instrument acknowledging our sickness,” Steve says. “So the song has both sad and happy elements to it.”
Steve’s lymphoma was diagnosed in 2007 and actively monitored until his symptoms worsened in 2009. That’s when Steve began intensive chemotherapy under medical oncologist Dr. Patrick Flynn. Steve’s cancer went into remission for six months, followed by a relapse. Since then, he has been on maintenance chemotherapy every eight weeks, with more intensive treatment when needed.
Steve dedicated “Chemo Blues” to the staff and patients of the Cancer Care & Infusion Center.
“I’m so glad to know that there will be familiar faces when I go there,” Steve says. “It means a lot to have people who know you, and know how to roll their eyes when you make a lame joke,” he laughs. “If you go to a big hospital, you don’t have the same caregivers.”
It’s important to feel like the nurses and staff know you and your family – especially for long-term treatment. That personal quality of care keeps Steve close to home.
“I would only get care outside of Northfield Hospital for things that Northfield Hospital can’t do,” Steve says. “The atmosphere is great, and everybody I’ve dealt with – from the front desk to the Surgery Center – has been just terrific. I feel great confidence in the care I’m getting at Northfield Hospital.”
Steve especially likes the Cancer Care & Infusion Center – a peaceful, dedicated space away from the bustle of busy hospital floors where chemo patients, with lowered immunity, are more susceptible to germs. “I feel so lucky to be able to have treatment in town, and skip the arduousness of driving an hour, having treatment and driving back,” Steve adds. “Plus, having an oncologist the quality of Dr. Flynn here in Northfield is a great benefit.”
How has living with cancer changed Steve’s life? “I’ve tried not to plan so much – to have so many expectations” of what he should be doing. Steve still plays clarinet and saxophone; his band performs regularly in Northfield, with a monthly gig at the Rubenstein. “It’s really important for my health to do that. It’s really important for me to play music,” he explains.
“I have days when I say ‘Woe is me, I’ve been on chemo for seven years,’” Steve says. “And there are other days I say ‘Wow, I’ve been on chemo for seven years and I’m still doing okay.’”
The beat goes on.
Learn more about Cancer Care.
Chemo Blues is a production of Dancing Sun Multimedia. Filmed and edited by Paul Krause. A Documentary Northfield production.