Mountain cancer survivor plays JHCC piano to say thanks
He’s a soothing presence in the Hummingbird Café at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.
For the last seven years Bruce Macdonald has been playing the piano in the café for a couple of hours each Tuesday starting at noon.
“This is a way to say thank you,” said the 77-year-old east Mountain resident who underwent six weeks of radiation treatment for prostate cancer at the cancer centre in early 2006 and has been cancer free since 2009.
Macdonald, who lost his first wife and two brothers to cancer, feels fortunate to be able to share his love of music with other cancer centre patients and staff.
A retired piano tuner, Macdonald said he was taught to play the piano by his late brother John, a noted Hamilton musician.
He recalls getting a chance to play at the café in February, 2006.
“About the second day of treatment I came in here to get a coffee and there was a lady playing the piano,” he said. “She took a break so I asked if I could play and she said sure.”
Macdonald’s playing impressed the women enough that she suggested he sign up to be a cancer centre volunteer pianist and he’s been a familiar face in the café ever since.
“The thing I like the most is people coming up and saying how much I made a difference in their day,” he said. “One lady said ‘I felt so depressed, when I came in here today I wasn’t looking forward to my doctor’s appointment and I heard you playing and all of a sudden I just started feeling better and my fear went away’.”
Dr. Gord Okawara, a radiation oncologist and head of the cancer centre’s Music in the Courtyard program, said music can be beneficial to the players and listeners.
“Music therapy has been shown through improved patient outcomes,” Okawara said. “It decreases the sense of anxiety and often decreases pain and improves everyone’s wellbeing.”
Okawara and other cancer centre staff presented Macdonald an award of appreciation last week during a surprise reception.
“That blew me away,” said a surprised Macdonald who was at the café for what he thought was going to be a meeting with cancer centre public relations officials.
While osteoporosis has stopped him from tuning pianos, he has no plans to stop playing the keys in the Hummingbird Café.
“When I stop playing in here it’s because I’ve either passed on to better things or I’m just not well enough,” Macdonald said. “I enjoy it too much to quit.”