The world and all its extraordinary and ordinary happenings can be encapsulated in melody, rhythm and lyric. Though music is perhaps my greatest love, I cannot say that it was my first. As a child, my parents taught me the value of love, often likening their amount for me in terms of the distance from us to the moon. At no point was that more apparent than when I was diagnosed with leukaemia at age two, on a family holiday.
In stark contrast to the picturesque surrounds of Queensland’s Four Mile Beach, we were suddenly walking the ominous corridors of the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital. My parents were not much older than I am today, and no doubt felt as though our lives had been thrust to the moon, hoping they’d find their way back to some sense of normality as soon as possible.
My father’s feet finally touched the ground when he met Catherine Crock walking towards us in a lab coat and red miniskirt. Cathy was, at that time, a procedural surgeon at the Royal Childen’s Hospital and, as we quickly learned, a mother of five with enormous empathy and a big open heart. It was no surprise she found the time to check in with a stressed parent like my father. Their polite chat turned into a conversation about the limited funding available for music therapy in the hospital.
To know my father is to know two things: he loves terribly outdated music, and he has a fierce need to do the right thing.
Within months of having this discussion, Cathy, my parents and a group of others created #togetherweachieve, which funded pagers, music therapy, beds for parents to use whilst staying with their children and art murals. It also sparked the rebuild of the new Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital and Cancer Research Centre, as well as the Hush Foundation, which, for me personally, had the greatest impact.
The Hush Foundation was started to aid to children undergoing procedures in the Royal Children’s hospital by bringing specially composed music (by Australian musicians) into the operating theatres and waiting rooms.
I’ve never known quite how to explain the ripple effect that Hush has had in my life. How does one explain something that they were too young to understand? I learned what headphones were by using them to listen to Hush performances during my treatments. I was a girl who shoved headphones over her tiny balding head to get anaesthetic before surgery; to have blood taken, to be poked, prodded and to rest. It is extraordinary to think that as a healthy 21-year-old woman now, the thing that gave me one of the largest comforts in the first few years of my life was music.
Music is in equal parts the reprieve that I have from the world around me and my partner in the mundane. It has underscored my steps to get groceries as much as it has the check-ups since my remission. My best friends know how I feel before even speaking to me based on what I am listening to on Spotify or what they can hear on the record player in my room.
Though it has taken me much more courage than I would care to admit, playing music has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my young adult life. I have had the opportunity to create my own music, release a CD and perform at political fundraisers, school choirs, balls, pubs and clubs. I am not a naturally confident person, nor do I believe I hold any special talent. What I do believe, however, is that music therapy changed the way I’ve processed the world. It has cemented within me a need to make a difference, so much so that now I work for a charitable organisation, and have had the opportunity to be involved in the creation of a music therapy podcast series.
Cathy, Hush and my parents gave me not only love and comfort as a sick child, but an ability to navigate my teenage and adult years with the knowledge that I am very blessed to be alive, and that music is always there to return to when things get difficult.