Quincy’s Song

In March 2007, I wrote Quincy’s Song in honor of a very special little boy. This is the story behind it.

I never thought such a small boy could change my life so much.

Just as the last notes of the piece faded away, I stood up from the piano and bowed. I felt a rush as the waves of applause lapped over me. After eight months of hard work, I had just finished performing the final movement of a Mozart piano concerto with the Southeast Iowa Symphony for the third and final time. As I bowed, I thought, “This is the height of my piano career .. .it cannot get any better than this!” Little did I know how wrong I was. Little did I know that my true peak would come when performing, not for a huge audience in a grand auditorium, but in the Ronald McDonald House, for an eight-year-old boy with cancer.

I was thirteen years old when Quincy was introduced to me through a blog kept by his mother. At three years old, Quincy was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a cancer which begins on the nerves but often metastasizes to other parts of the body. For some reason, I felt extremely connected to Quincy. Perhaps it was his young age, or maybe his mischievous personality. Although he lived more than 8 hours away and I was only acquainted with him through his mom’s blog, I felt as though I knew him.

As I followed the blog, Quincy and his family continued to amaze me. Even In the face of so much hardship, their outlook remained hopeful and faithful. I could not imagine what it would be like, as a five-year-old, to have to understand the meanings of such menacing terms as “chemotherapy” and “bone marrow transplant”. With every blog post I read, Quincy’s faith and peace, no matter the circumstances, astounded me. Getting to know Quincy made me realize that I want to help children with cancer and their families. I want to be their friend, someone who supports them through cancer’s unimaginable horrors. I want to help children with cancer be able to grow up and experience life just like any other person. It is because of Quincy that I want to become a pediatric oncologist

One day as I practiced piano, my mind – and fingers – wandered from their usual place. Instead of playing the classical pieces I normally practiced, I began to experiment with a new melody. Composing wasn’t my forte, but I couldn’t escape the fact that this new piece of music sounded almost like a real song. As this piece formed before me, Quincy, my friend-from-afar, was at the forefront of my mind. I could not stop thinking about him and what he was enduring. Although he didn’t know I existed, Quincy was impacting my life more than he could know. Thus, I named my piece “Quincy’s Song” and sent a video performance of it to Quincy and his family. That was a decision I will never regret.

Quincy’s family and mine soon began regular correspondence. As our friendship grew, we talked about someday meeting.

Unfortunately, it never worked out – until this past summer. On July 31, 2010, we finally had the chance to meet Quincy face-to-face. At the time, he was at the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, Tennessee, about to return home after being an inpatient at st. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for more than two months.

Meeting Quincy was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Even though we were only able to spend a weekend with him, our time together was magnificent. We played games, did crafts, and shared meals with Quincy and his family. However, the defining moment of the weekend was when I had the opportunity to play “Quincy’s Song” for Quincy himself. That was a moment I will never forget. Although most 8- year-olds would be indifferent towards classical piano, Quincy actually enjoyed the music and kept asking for more. Our goodbyes that weekend were tearful, and I returned home forever changed.     .

One month later, I again had the chance to play “Quincy’s Song” for his family … under much more sobering circumstances. On August 27, 2010, Quincy passed away after a five-year battle with neuroblastoma. My family and I made the 8-hour trek to Kentucky once more. I had never played at a funeral before. The setting was poignant. As the casket closed for the final time, my tears accompanied “Quincy’s Song” as I played in the small country church.

Quincy changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. Not only did he inspire me to compose – a new consideration for me – but he also inspired me to dedicate my life to helping children like him by pursuing a career in medicine.

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