Local cancer center needs help starting music therapy program

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Singing River Health System's Regional Cancer Center is calling on South Mississippians to vote and help provide music therapy to patients. The cancer center is a finalist to receive the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program.

Musician Derek Terry has been battling cancer since December.

"I was diagnosed with cancer, and it spread into my lungs and liver. It was terrifying. I am 27-years-old," Terry said.

Terry has now turned to the sound of music to help beat the disease.

"I think music is a universal language. The thing I battle with is nausea, and whenever I feel sick I can sit down and play the guitar for a while, anything to just take your mind off it a few minutes of being uncomfortable," Terry said.

Singing River Health Systems officials are hoping to bring more advanced music therapy to its cancer center to add extra support for patients like Terry.

"We still have some informal music therapy, and when we had the formal music therapist here, he was a very popular guy. He got around, played the piano and the guitar, and this was a soothing presence to patients," Hospital official Richard Lucas said.

"This is not required in a cancer center, but this gives our patients an opportunity for a new program to look at some stress reduction," Grants Program Director Maggie Clarkson said.

The cancer center was recently chosen as a finalist to receive funding to implement the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program through the LIVESTRONG Community Impact project. The grant will support inpatient and outpatient clinical therapy services by a part time music therapist.

"Usually the therapist will come in and they will have some simple instruments with them. Even something like a harmonica or just something they can engage the patient with. They can use CDs. They can kind of explore what would the patient want in terms of relaxation. You can build the energy level depending on the pace of the music," said Clarkson.

In order for the center to win the music program, hospital officials and patients are counting on South Mississippians to go online and vote: http://vote.livestrong.org/applicant/26-singing_ri/

"What you need to do is go to vote.livestrong.org and find the area that says music therapy and vote for the regional cancer center, but also go to Facebook and Twitter and your votes will be tripled," Lucas said.

Singing River Health System is the only cancer center in the region selected to possibly win more than $15,000 in grant money. The campaign ends April 11.

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