SLU Cancer Center helping patients find their voice through music

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– Bill Mokriakow has been making music for 61 years. But Tuesday, he’s getting tuned in to collaborate.

“When I write a song I try to say the maximum amount of things with the minimum amount of words,” says Bill Mokriakow. “That’s what a song’s about. It’s like a painting. You start out with the background and you start layering.”

Mokriakow’s painting tells the tale of his brush with cancer and a stem cell transplant back in 2003.

“I relapsed last year,” says Mokriakow. “They diagnosed me in February, second time around multiple-myeloma.”

Tuesday at the St. Louis University Cancer Center, Mokriakow sat down for a songwriting session with a certified music therapist.

“By doing that we validate those emotions,” says Andrew Dwiggins, a certified music therapist. “We kind of lift those up and they become significant. You know, you write a song and it’s immortal.”

As the two have a conversation, lyrical content begins to come together.

“I’ve had my time with God to cry as the doctors they try,” says Mokriakow. “So there’s a sense of peace, God is in control here and I got to walk through the chapters and the pages of life.”

“Oh!” exclaims Dwiggins writing down an idea. “You feel like we’re on the right track?”

For doctors and certified music therapists, songwriting sessions can strike a chord with patients, helping identify coping skills and bringing some form of harmony when dealing with a disease.

“And to address ways they can kind of look at the future and have hope and a positive outlook,” says Dwiggins.

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