The Meaning of Care Magazine

Hope and Harmony: Innovative Music Therapy Program Helps Cancer Patients Cope

Published: Dec. 20, 2023

The patient was in a lot of pain, physically and mentally. She had just learned her cancer was spreading. When Stephanie Kozol walked into her room – guitar in hand – the patient almost turned her away.

“She said, ‘I’m going to let you try it,’” Kozol recalled.

A board-certified music therapist, Kozol has been making the rounds at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center (MECC) and Methodist Hospital since late September. She plays lead guitar – and a lead role – in an innovative music therapy pilot program. It’s the latest layer of support offered through Harper’s Hope, a comprehensive and ever-expanding cancer survivorship program.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” said Kozol who works for Music Speaks LLC. “The fact that Methodist wants to do research and measure how music therapy is impacting patients is so exciting.”

For now, the pilot is focused on the Radiation Oncology Department and the sixth floor of Methodist Hospital, which has a large oncology population. 

“It’s not just something that will impact patients in the moment – while they’re lying on that hard metal table in Radiation Oncology – but something that can be a lifelong coping skill,” said Chandy Lockman Hoke, Methodist’s practice manager for cancer prevention and support service. 

She continued, “It’s teaching patients that what they listen to can impact how their body experiences some of the things that occur during treatment, like anxiety, depression, pain and nausea.” 

While Kozol plays for patients, using melody and harmony to increase motivation or encourage relaxation, she’s also paying close attention.

Stephanie Kozol
Stephanie Kozol

“I do a lot of monitoring of the patient’s behaviors. I’m watching affect, muscle tension and rate of respiration,” she said. “My job allows me to use something that’s made my life so much better to increase other people’s quality of life.”

The music therapy pilot will continue into early 2024. It’s just one of several examples of how Harper’s Hope continues to grow and evolve. 

In addition to providing established physical wellness, genetic counseling and behavioral health programs, Harper’s Hope has newer offerings, like Recipes for Hope and Stop and Paint the Flowers, which explores the healing power of art. Clare Shanahan, a survivor of breast cancer, attended the last painting workshop with friends.

“People need it psychologically. They need it for an outlet. It was a fun nurturing event, and it was social and engaging. It wasn’t an overload of reminding you of your cancer,” said Shanahan who also sits on the MECC’s Patient & Family Advisory Council. 

The council helps generate ideas to improve the patient and survivor experience, including its latest request: a new peer-to-peer support program. It’s designed to connect and build comradery among those who are experiencing or have experienced similar diagnoses or cancer journeys. 

Gifts to Methodist Hospital Foundation make possible all Harper’s Hope services, which are available to cancer survivors regardless of where they receive treatment. No one is denied access due to an inability to pay.

“We are very fortunate,” Lockman Hoke said. “There aren’t a lot of survivorship programs as robust as ours. Our amazing donors help bridge the gaps.”

A lifelong lover of music, Kozol hopes the music therapy pilot will grow to include the entire hospital. She’s seen the positive impact, bringing comfort and coping skills to cancer patients, including those who are reluctant, at first, to let her in.

“I ended up being in there for 40 minutes,” Kozol said. “First, as I played, she stopped verbally complaining. Then she stopped moaning. Eventually her body released, and she started a conversation with me. She got to a point where she could barely keep her eyes open. I brought the music quieter, and then I left her. Her nurses told me she had a solid stretch of sleep after that session.”

From the sound of distress to the sound of music and, finally, to the sweet sound of serenity.


How to Help

To support Harper’s Hope and help improve cancer survivors’ quality of life, visit “Maybe it’s $20 or $50. All of that adds up and can really help somebody, whether it’s their nutritional needs or services through our Inner Beauty salon,” Chandy Lockman Hoke said. 


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