Even before he began radiation and chemotherapy, Stanford Hospital & Clinics patient Kenneth Olson had endured a difficult surgery, which included two skin grafts, to remove a tumor that had grown from his right nostril up into the lining of his brain. “The doctor said early on it was not going to be a picnic – and it wasn’t,” said Olson. He was diagnosed on a Tuesday, operated on by Friday and introduced quickly to the remainder of his treatment.
Olson received an ad hoc diploma from the radiation group shortly after surgery. But when he finished chemo, several employees in the Infusion Center had something a bit more extravagant in mind – a Radio City Music Hall Rockettes-style version of the 1963 hit “My Boyfriend’s Back,” with words altered to the occasion. Hospital videographer Todd Holland arranged to be on hand recently for that performance.
“The chemo’s done and you won’t be coming back! Hey now, hey now, the chemo’s done!” is the opening line. And it’s been a hit since its debut.
“It started with one patient, whose chemo had been difficult for her,” Chris Tucker, RN, who also teaches a how-to class on chemotherapy for SHC patients. told me. “She said, ‘I want you all to sing for me.’ We didn’t know what we were going to do, so we just sang, ‘The chemo’s done, the chemo’s done!’ We did that for a few other patients.” A few months later, a patient’s son, who happened to be a singer/songwriter, offered to write them some words for a song whose melody they all knew. “He wrote lyrics. We didn’t tell his mom and we came in and sang. That version had a few more verses to it and it was very specific to her, so over time we shortened it down and that’s become our generic chemo song,” Tucker said.
Singing the song is way for the staff to rally around a patient, Tucker said, and often other patients will clap, too. “We love the work we do,” she said. “We wouldn’t be oncology nurses if we didn’t love this kind of work. To be able to stand alongside someone when they’re going through what they perceive as the most difficult phase of their lives, to do something uplifting and fun, is something positive for them we can do. As soon as someone hears we’re doing the chemo song, everybody drops what they’re doing.”