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Cancer Blows: How Playing the Trumpet Led to One Man's Myeloma Diagnosis

CURE spoke with Ryan Anthony, a Dallas Symphony trumpet player, about how his passion for music led to his myeloma diagnosis and the start of his foundation CancerBlows.
BY Kristie L. Kahl
PUBLISHED August 28, 2019
In 2012, it was playing the trumpet that led Ryan Anthony to notice a pain in his ribs. Shortly thereafter, he received a multiple myeloma diagnosis and a new passion: using music as an outlet to help others facing cancer.

In an interview with CURE, Anthony discussed his foundation, CancerBlows, which raises both awareness and money to encourage research for cancers like multiple myeloma.

CURE: What led to your cancer diagnosis?
Anthony: Actually, what led me to going to the doctor was playing the trumpet, and I was getting much pain in my ribs when I would take deep breaths to play. At first, it was very seldom and then it happened more and more. I went to the doctor, and they couldn't figure anything out. So finally, we went to an endocrinologist and they weren’t even going to test for myeloma because they said I wasn’t even a candidate. And the tests came back positive two days later, and two days after that we were at the oncologist getting a biopsy where they found over 80% cancer cells. But yeah, it was the trumpet that took me in (to see the doctor).

How did music play a role in your cancer journey?
Yeah, I mean, not only did it obviously bring me into the doctor earlier than I probably would have, but it was an outlet for me. I continued working full time with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (through treatment). And I did that for three years, actually, up until this past season. Part of that was because I didn't want the cancer to define who I was and I wasn't going to allow (playing the trumpet) to be taken away because that was my passion. Cancer can take so many things away, so it was important to me that my outlet and my passion, whether it be a hobby, or in my case, my professional job, was something the cancer could not take away. It was a great outlet. 

When treatments would stop working, it was so easy to mentally and physically just be exhausted and depressed and pushed down. But every night, (music) was an outlet. So, despite the cancer, there was still something always good that I felt I was involved in and making a difference to those who wanted to come to the concert. So, it was kind of twofold in that sense. I mean, it was just a good outlet for me and then it also gave me that constant feeling that I’m still relevant. I'm still able to do something that makes a difference to others. And I think that's important for so many cancer patients.

Can you tell us about your foundation and what you hope others take away from it?
I think the biggest thing for patients to take away is that there's so much life and hope. That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to do with the music. And when they see these concerts with 25 of the biggest-name musicians that are donating their time, suddenly, people are realizing that they are not alone. You start seeing there are thousands, even people who don't have cancer, but are willing to donate their talent and their gifts on our behalf. And that's been a huge inspiration for so many people.

So often, we think it's just the cancer patients and the caretakers, but there really are amazing people out there. And so that's been, to me, one of the biggest things: a huge sense of hope.
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