Cancer Patients get CDs back from Outer Space  

March 12, 2022 - Texas Children's Hospital

CDs from Purple Songs Can Fly, a creative music program unique to Texas Children’s Cancer Center, soared into outer space and traveled to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Discovery with NASA astronaut,Scott Parazynski. On March 12, Parazynski returned the CDs to the cancer patients at Texas Children’s for a special celebration.

As part of Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Arts in Medicine program, Purple Songs Can Fly offers an in-house recording studio where pediatric cancer patients and their siblings have an opportunity to write and record their own music. The creative program gives kids a musical outlet that allows their spirits to soar above their earthbound pain and treatment for cancer.

Inspired by the program, NASA astronaut, Scott Parazynski, flew the songs on his space mission to the International Space Station and back. "Not even the sky can limit these special songs,” says Parazynski. “I’m pleased to return the CDs and meet some of the great kids who created these inspirational songs.”

Purple Songs Can Fly is the brainchild of musician and composer, Anita Kruse, who enlisted the creative talent of her good friend and professional songwriter, Sandy Stewart. Together, they help patients set their feelings to music. “Each child who wants to participate can brainstorm their feelings as we work with them to create song lyrics,” says Kruse, director of Purple Songs Can Fly. “We experiment with musical rhythms based on the type of music the child likes. We set the lyrics to an appropriate beat and have the child sing with the music. As the child steps into the studio and sings their own words into the microphone, we can see their joy shine through. It’s a moment when they seem transported to another place. It’s like they are flying and rising above their physical illnesses. I believe each purple song creates a tangible symbol for the hope of healing.”

Twelve-year-old Stephen recorded his first single, “I Can Make It,” after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Like many children diagnosed with cancer, Stephen was quiet about
his struggle, unable to verbalize the complex emotions caused by the disease. His song was a breakthrough. A prayer repeated by Stephen’s mom became the inspiration for his lyrics -- a confident declaration of hope. Through the help of Purple Songs’ talented composers and songwriters, Stephen’s song is one of 55 songs that have been recorded since the program’s inception in 2005.

Why Purple? As a combination of blue and red, Kruse believes purple is an ideal color that can stimulate a child’s creativity. It’s often associated with inspiration, imagination, courage, healing, strength and confidence she says.

Carol Herron, coordinator of the Arts in Medicine program at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, praises the unique program. “These children are given a highly creative, much-needed musical environment to express the many and varied thoughts and feelings that will surely emerge during their treatment,” she said. “Every song encapsulates where these children are right now. It’s not about being sick, it’s about being full of life and what’s important to them at that moment.”

The goal of the Arts in Medicine program at Texas Children’s Cancer Center is to provide enjoyable, educational and meaningful artistic opportunities to patients and their families. Artistic activities by and for children create opportunities for self-expression, empowerment and development of coping skills. Making music, singing songs, performing dance, producing plays, writing and telling stories and decorating spaces with visual art enhances the healing environment and treatment experience.

In recognition of the healing power of creativity, hospitals across the United States have implemented their own art and music programs. However, Purple Songs Can Fly is the only known program that not only empowers children by giving them a musical outlet, but also provides the means necessary for that music to be heard around the world.

About Purple Songs Can Fly
Purple Songs Can Fly is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a creative, musical outlet for children at Texas Children’s Cancer Center through use of an in-house recording studio and the talents of local composers and musicians.

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Page modified on March 26, 2022