Thrive by IU Health

August 08, 2019

Fiddler Climbed a Mountain, Came Down the Other Side

Fiddler Climbed a Mountain, Came Down the Other Side

“There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose.”

Flat on her back on her bed in IU Health Simon Cancer Center, Charlette Jones sings the words to Miley Cyrus’ country pop ballad, “The Climb.” The song describes a difficult journey. And by Jones’ side sits someone who knows about that journey, someone who has climbed that mountain and is headed down the other side.

Emily Caudill was just 25 when she faced one of the slowest and yet fastest weeks of her life that would result in an uphill battle fighting ovarian cancer. Often called the “silent killer,” because it is somewhat of an artful dodger during detection, ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly cancers in women. The American Cancer Society reports only 20-30 percent of women diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer are alive five years later. So Caudill is something of an anomaly.

A Bike Wreck May Have Saved Her

In 2011 just three months before a bike wreck, Caudill had a normal OB/GYN exam. “After the wreck, I wasn’t healing and I was having a lot of bleeding. I’d had ovarian cysts before so I didn’t think much of it,” said Caudill. She made an ER visit on Sunday, then to her OB/GYN on Monday and later that same day, she was sitting in the office of a gynecological oncologist in Louisville, close to her home at the time.

“I had fluid on my belly and I could barely breathe,” she recalls. And just like that, she was admitted to the hospital on Friday. The diagnosis was cancer. Two days later she was in surgery. She remained hospitalized for two weeks and when she was strong enough, she had her first dose of chemo.

After eight months of remission, the cancer relapsed in August of 2012 and spread to her liver. That’s when she became connected with IU Health Simon Cancer Center, undergoing bridge chemo. On Halloween she was admitted to the bone marrow transplant unit.

"I had germ cell tumors, which cause testicular cancer in men. It's an extremely rare type of cancer for women to develop. My doctor in Louisville said that an autologous bone marrow transplant would be my best shot for survival. We looked at cancer centers nationwide and found that the best place to go was actually just a few miles up the road, at IU Health Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis,” said Caudill. Doctors Rafat M. Abonour and Robert P. Nelson were her Bone Marrow Transplant Hematology/Oncology team.

“I kept a little travel size guitar in my room for friends to play when they came to visit me. Dr. Nelson would also play the guitar while he was giving me reports day-to-day,” Caudill recalls.

“And Dr. Lawrence Einhorn and his team at IU Health pioneered the development of a life-saving treatment regimen for testicular germ cell tumors, dramatically improving the cure rate,” said Caudill.

But complications continued. First her liver failed and then her kidneys. Caudill was put on dialysis. The dialysis caused her blood pressure to spike resulting in a stroke. “My body started shutting down,” she recalled. The stroke and brain swelling caused confusion, diminished awareness, and rendered her incapable of communicating.

That was when her aunt began playing the bluesy song, “Salt” by Kentucky-based artist Justin Lewis. Caudill’s family members and nurses couldn’t believe what happened next. Caudill began to sing along. “Music is what brought me back,” said Caudill, who majored in music therapy at the University of Louisville.

The Rhythm of Life

Caudill comes from a family of singers. Her earliest memories of music involve singing hymns at The Macedonia Old Regular Baptist Church in Breathitt County Kentucky – the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Her great-grandparents were the founding members of the church and her great-grandfather led the singing. Musical instruments were prohibited in the church.

“I learned a lot of folk and fiddle music of the region by aural tradition (music captured by ear),” said Caudill. “My parents would take me to folk music festivals and fiddle contests, where I'd listen to other people playing tunes I didn't know. Then I'd just noodle around for awhile until my fingers figured out how to replicate that melody.” It was her grandfather who encouraged her to play the fiddle at age eight. By age 10 she could play, “Amazing Grace,” a hymn she recently played as a parting gift at her grandfather’s graveside.

But at the bedside of Charlotte Jones, Caudill recently picked a tune she hadn’t rehearsed. In the same unit where she was once a patient, Caudill found herself “noodling” out a request by Jones – the Miley Cyrus song, “The Climb.” She entered the room entertaining requests and Jones was ready.

“This song is inspirational, it’s emotional and it’s uplifting,” said Jones who is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. “This tells me a lot about your resilience. You are going to keep on going and keep climbing that mountain,” said Caudill.

She Hadn’t Reached the Summit

Music brought her back from a stroke, but Caudill still wasn’t out of the clear. She still had a mountain to climb. In March 2013, the cancer still appeared to be active, but more chemo could kill her. The only option was a second-look surgery. The surgeons removed her gall bladder and 40% of her liver. Two weeks later, she was told the cancer was invisible. “The diseased tissue that appeared to be active on PET and CT scans was actually dead. In the words of the doctor, it was ‘pretty much a miracle,’” Caudill recalls.

But there was also bad news. The chemo caused a significant hearing impairment. It was a mentor – Louisville fiddler Jeff Guernsey who coaxed Caudill to keep up with her music, even if it was just a few minutes every day.

"In a lot of ways, it was like my life had hit the reset button. I had to re-learn how to do basic things like walk up a flight of stairs,” said Caudill. When she left University Hospital, Caudill moved in with her grandparents. "My grandfather installed ropes on the staircase in their house, so I could pull myself up the steps."

It was a long road to recovery. When she first came home from the hospital, she was too weak to even unscrew the top off a bottle of water, let alone stand and hold her fiddle.

Over time, she built up her strength and was fitted for hearing aids. A friend suggested that she reimagine her relationship with sounds as vibrations felt, rather than noises heard. Caudill learned how to tune her violin by feeling the notes oscillating through her jawbone, which was transmitting the sound to her inner ear.

“That was a game changer,” said Caudill. That was when her confidence began to rebuild along with her strength.

Joining IU Health

Before she was diagnosed with cancer Caudill was an intern for Music Therapy Services of Central Kentucky. It took nearly two years for her to recover from cancer and the side effects of treatment. She returned to her internship in 2014, and went on to achieve board certification in music therapy. She moved to Nashville, Tenn. in 2015, where she taught music in a preschool lab school at Vanderbilt University. She also worked for Musical Bridges, LLC, a practice providing individual/group therapy and music lessons for clients with special needs.

In January, when a music therapy position became available at IU Health, she thought the opportunity to return to the very hospital where she was treated could either be devastating or rewarding.

“What sealed the deal was when I walked into the Complete Life Center and met the awesome team,” said Caudill. “This is a facility committed to treating the whole person, not just the disease.”

She’s not afraid to share her experience with patients.

"Women are living beyond their ovarian cancer diagnoses now, more than ever before. I am proof of that, and I'm not alone," said Caudill, who has enrolled in a promising research effort for ovarian germ cell tumor patients at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the MSK-IMPACT genomic study. "I'm fortunate just to be alive, so I feel a strong obligation to offer as much of myself and my story to help others as I can. This manifests directly in my career, and indirectly as a research participant." Caudill is also an advocate leader for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, an organization she represented in meetings with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. this spring.

In her first weeks on the job, when a patient complained about pain from her port, Caudill pulled down the neckline of her shirt to reveal her own port, still in tact underneath her skin.

“I think it’s great when patients come back to visit, but when they come back to give back like Emily has, it is a true sign of hope,” said Rose Hampton, a patient tech at Simon Cancer Center. It was Hampton who was by Caudill’s side, as she looked at herself in a mirror – bald and bloated. “I thought it was a joke, like I was looking in one of those carnival mirrors that distorts everything,” said Caudill.

With newfound physical and emotional strength, Caudill effortlessly raised her fiddle to her chin and began picking out another tune. On the hand that holds her instrument is a ring that forms a gold circle. It’s a reminder.

“I came back here to play music, lift spirits and help other patients heal,” said Caudill. “It’s like coming down the other side of the mountain. It’s like something that’s come full circle.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Latest Stories

Filter from

April 14, 2021 Diabetes prevention program helped patient break the cycle She tried and she tried but she couldn’t seem to get in shape. When Cheryl Peglow learn... April 13, 2021 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine paused - Your questions answered On Tuesday, April 13, the Indiana Department of Health asked all state vaccine administ... April 13, 2021 COVID delayed mammograms: doctors say, ‘Get back on track’ Many things were put on hold when pandemic turned to panic. Now, doctors remind patient... April 12, 2021 Clinical medicine and research makes this transplant patient among the first IU Health has a long history as one of the top transplant programs in the country. Now,... April 07, 2021 Husband donates kidney to wife: ‘This is a highlight. It’s worth it’ April is National Donate Life Month and today is Living Donor Day – a time to celebrate... April 07, 2021 On a terrible day, Center gives victims hope Nicole Perkins meets people on the worst days of their lives. As a forensic nurse exami... April 07, 2021 Philanthropy could help fund more Centers of Hope Providing emergency services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child ab... April 07, 2021 10 Myths about Sexual Assault April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. To help Hoosiers learn more abo... April 06, 2021 A true giver at heart Saving lives—that’s the main concern for the IU Health Bloomington Hospital Emergency... April 05, 2021 Doctor flies for a cause that has paws His career is in medicine, but this doctor extends his caring spirit outside the hospit... April 04, 2021 Sepsis invaded nurse’s body, but not her determination It started with a persistent cough. In no time at all, Alixandra “Alix” Gerringer was a... April 02, 2021 Fighting as a community In just over 100 days, the IU Health South Central Region has given out over 60,000 COV... April 01, 2021 A success story thanks to support from the team Katelyn Cole believes her success is from the team that supported her. “My life was r... March 31, 2021 Q1 2021 Quarterly Report: The year that changed the way we give. Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... March 31, 2021 The next new shot: Help for patients diagnosed with HIV For years, people diagnosed with HIV have taken a steady regiment of oral medication. N... March 29, 2021 Never Too Young - Here’s how this 22-year-old is Fighting Stage 4 Colon Cancer By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, She’s 22. She was 21... March 28, 2021 Rare Disease Treated at IU Health; Can Take Years to Diagnose By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, At first, there were ... March 24, 2021 Diagnosis: Hodgkin’s lymphoma - She spent her birthday in the hospital At first she thought she had allergies, and then Christine Kirk heard the word, “cancer... March 22, 2021 Patient moved to Indy for treatment of multiple myeloma By the time she got her diagnosis and became a patient of IU Health, Irene Johnson was ... March 21, 2021 Memorial & meditation: Doctor says ‘It is from the intensity of the loss we felt’ Deep sadness, feelings of helplessness, and overwhelming anxiety of what’s to come - me... March 18, 2021 Social worker, nurse – Dynamic duo in critical care They are a team, and when it comes to caring for the sickest patients, these two go abo... March 18, 2021 Grant expands IU Health virtual behavioral health services to rural counties A highly regarded IU Health virtual behavioral health program has received $1.2 million... March 17, 2021 Putting faith into practice to reach patients in isolation “A big part of getting well happens outside the doors of IU Health.” Shadreck Kamwend... March 17, 2021 Teens in Orange County high schools to benefit from counseling The timing couldn’t have been worse: Even as Indiana high school students report high ... March 16, 2021 Don’t Let Spring Forward Leave You Behind: 6 Tips for Healthy Sleep While most of us are ready for warmer weather and longer days, ‘losing’ that extra hour... March 15, 2021 About women’s health: Nurse’s career spans more than four decades in OB/GYN She’s been part of a team that delivered twins, triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets;... March 14, 2021 Eight people form a kidney ‘chain;’ Four people receive the gift of life It’s like a tiny sapling that grows into a tree. One person plants the seed and the oth... March 11, 2021 Testicular cancer patient travels from Chile to Indianapolis for world-class care Pedro Cordua lives in Chile and has been battling testicular cancer for two years. He c... March 10, 2021 Johnson & Johnson Vaccine: Your Questions Answered Now that clinicians have begun to administer the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in ... March 04, 2021 Screening Mammography & COVID-19 Vaccine: What to Know Screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines are both very important for your health. Som... March 03, 2021 "Angels ... Wear Red": Letter of Appreciation Thanks Nurse at IU Health Arnett Hospital How do you ever say thank you to the one that saved your life? Pastor Jim Higdon wrote ... March 03, 2021 IU Health announces applications for Community Impact Investment Fund IU Health is pleased to announce the next round of applications for funding from the Co... February 26, 2021 Why heart health is important when recovering from COVID-19 Originally printed in the Indianapolis Business Journal on February 5, 2021Keeping Hoos... February 26, 2021 IU Health introduces online price estimate tool Before you schedule medical care, your out-of-pocket costs may be top of mind. Can I af... February 25, 2021 Welcome to the world, baby Henry! The IUHP Midwifery practice welcomed its 100th baby on Valentine’s Day. His birth didn’... February 19, 2021 Hospice nurse: ‘I hold their hand and let them know they are loved’ She’s sat at the bedside of countless patients. In their final moments, they are often ... February 18, 2021 Infusion helps patients in early stages of COVID-19 As the Coronavirus continues to impact Indiana residents IU Health offers a treatment t... February 17, 2021 Heart disease and women: The reality. The symptoms. Now hear this! One out of four women, a truly frightening and staggering statistic, wil... February 17, 2021 Cardiac Rehab: ‘Giving Life Back to Patients’ When someone has a heart attack, we often hear about the role of quick intervention in ... February 16, 2021 A Program With Heart: Serving Adults With Congenital Heart Disease For most people, the phrase “congenital heart disease” likely brings to mind babies and... February 15, 2021 Telehealth enables patients to receive care in their community During this pandemic, we have all learned the value of technology in being able to work... February 15, 2021 The HALO® BassiNest® swivel sleeper introduces a new level of care for newborns at Arnett For the Mother Baby unit at Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital, the number one g... February 15, 2021 Patient receives stem cells from daughter He’s smiling. Douglas Haywood is glad to have company and he’s glad to be celebrating h... February 14, 2021 Husband donates liver to wife: ‘There was never any question I’d do it’ There were seizures, there was jaundice. As Heather Buchanan’s health declined, it was ... February 12, 2021 Heartbeats keep loved ones close when family members’ hearts ache Music therapy is part of the IU Health’s CompleteLife Program, attending to the mind, b... February 10, 2021 Firefighter felt like death was in the room Jim Redd is not one to give up easily, but even this previously healthy guy was no matc... February 08, 2021 How to Get Started Exercising at Home For a year, we've spent more time at home than ever. Although gyms and fitness cen... February 08, 2021 How to Stay Active & Healthy During Cold Winter Even in the best of winters, many of us take a cue from grizzly bears and spend the who... February 05, 2021 Transplant patient from the Middle East: ‘Here the doctors are confident, courageous’ He traveled more than 7,000 miles, about 20 hours by plane, and spent 10 months in Indi... February 04, 2021 Cardiovascular Institute Unites Patient Care and Research Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in Indiana and around the world, but... February 03, 2021 Cardiovascular Patient Has a Heart for Giving Back Ron Fredrick didn’t think he was going to die. Others weren’t so optimistic. In 2018, t... February 03, 2021 Irsay Gift Expands Successful Addiction Program A $1 million boost from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is allowing a proven addicti... February 01, 2021 Married 46 years, they call themselves ‘the cancer couple’ They met when they were students at Indiana University, married, and enjoyed a life tra... January 29, 2021 Trauma, military service, and travel – Art therapist brings a mix of experiences She’s worked with people who experienced trauma, and she’s served with the military sta... January 27, 2021 Two-time kidney recipient: One from his wife, another from his friend National media outlets hovered like bees at a honey pot when they learned the love stor... January 26, 2021 Foundation Grants $603,279 to Benefit Patients, Team Members Systemwide IU Health hospitals across the state have received more than $600,000 in grants from IU... January 26, 2021 Tens of thousands of COVID vaccinations: Two people behind the scenes at one clinic They work tirelessly, coordinating the sites that administer the life-saving vaccine. H... January 22, 2021 Local Business Owner Gives to Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund If you’ve seen The Wire or Homicide: Life on the Streets, you might think you know what... January 22, 2021 Great Care: The Universal Language Imagine being ill or injured, and not being able to understand the doctors and nurses w... January 22, 2021 Mullins Supplies Much of What IU Health Needs Dennis Mullins’ career has been geared toward a year like 2020. His military logistics ... January 22, 2021 Rev Donors Support the “Trauma of Social Injustice” When IU Health Foundation realized it had to cancel its 2020 Rev Indy event due to the ... January 19, 2021 Great grandma, 85, rolls up her sleeve: ‘I want to see my Family’ She’s not accustomed to sitting still and slowing down. Yet, like many, a pandemic buil... January 18, 2021 What to Expect After COVID-19 Vaccine As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has expanded to more Hoosiers in recent days, you may b... January 15, 2021 IU Health Arnett announces leadership promotions Christopher Mansfield, MD has been promoted to Associate Chief Medical Officer (ACMO) f... January 08, 2021 Chief Nursing Officer receives DNP Marilyn Riley, vice president and chief nursing officer at IU Health Frankfort, recentl... January 08, 2021 IU Health Arnett Hospital announces retirement of President Daniel Neufelder, FACHE, president of Indiana University Health Arnett and the West Cen... January 05, 2021 Tips for Isolation, Anxiety, and Seasonal Depression During COVID-19 For most of us, this winter is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. Not only ... December 20, 2020 She’s a respiratory therapist with asthma, and she’s on the front lines Jody White didn’t have to treat COVID-positive patients at Methodist Hospital, but opti... December 18, 2020 Physicians implore their communities to take COVID vaccine when it's time IU Health infectious disease physicians from around the state feel confident in taking ... December 17, 2020 IU Health begins COVID-19 vaccines: 'Light at the end of a very long tunnel' IU Health took possession of the first COVID-19 vaccines in central Indiana on Wednesda... December 17, 2020 Coping with Grief and Loss This Holiday Season The holiday season is often a time of year in which a wide range of emotions can arise.... December 17, 2020 Behavioral health numbers up; Fighting holiday stress during a pandemic The past year has been filled with anxiety, disappointment, and heartache. Never has it... December 16, 2020 Veteran nurse: ‘I can’t tell you how hard it is to see that lonely patient in bed’ For more than two decades she’s sat at the bedside of her patients. Now, IU Health Nurs... December 15, 2020 ‘Baskets of Cheer’ boost front-line teams During a stressful day, a quick cup of coffee or snack can make a big difference, espec... December 15, 2020 New program allows patients to heal at home In April, when the impact of the pandemic began to hit home, IU Health had an idea to h... December 15, 2020 COVID-19 vaccine: Freezers ready to store; Staff ready to administer first doses It’s been a long time coming but now, a new vaccine is making its debut in the fight ag... December 14, 2020 Steps to Eating Healthy at Home It may be an understatement to say that the year 2020 has been quite the whirlwind. The... December 13, 2020 First patient who received COVID-fighting infusion: ‘Hardest part was the needle’ When she signed up to receive a new monoclonal antibody to help ward off her symptoms o... December 12, 2020 Wigs can help cancer patients feel sense of control When you combed or brushed your hair this morning, you likely didn’t think much about h... December 11, 2020 Watch: IU Health experts answer COVID-19 vaccine questions With COVID-19 vaccine approval just around the corner, IU Health experts address a numb... December 10, 2020 Generational Trauma: Breaking the Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences How Our Understanding of ACEs Provides Better Healing Care for Adults “The child is th... December 10, 2020 First a Riley patient; Now at 25, athlete is a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center At the age of three he became a patient at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. No... December 09, 2020 COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Indiana and across the country, a ray of hope exists... December 09, 2020 IU Health vascular team’s phone app focuses on blood clots and COVID patients As health care providers piece together the impact of the deadly coronavirus, a team of... December 08, 2020 Indiana University Health Arnett welcomes new Chief Nursing Officer, Allison Shuttz, MSN, RN, NE-BC Allison Shuttz, MSN, RN, NE-BC, has been appointed Chief Nursing Officer for Indiana Un... December 08, 2020 For two years, this young mom could not speak Her 2-year-old was just a baby when Maranda Slusser stopped talking. Two more children ... December 04, 2020 Tranquility Spaces Provide a Respite For Frontline Team Members Sometimes even heroes need a break … a chance to slow down, take a breath, gather their... December 03, 2020 Hospital chaplain: From bedside compassion to hospitalized care She’s sat at the bedside of new moms and patients undergoing radiation therapy. She’s a... December 02, 2020 “I thank God I’ve come through it” As a COVID-19 “long hauler,” Sarah Hagan found help through IU Health’s Convalescing CO... December 02, 2020 She cares for patients with COVID and carries on her mother’s legacy Her mother worked for IU Health, and for two decades this nurse has followed in her foo... November 30, 2020 Calling a Code Lavender If you’ve watched a hospital-based television show, you’ve probably seen the following ... November 30, 2020 Hospital workers – Giving hearts on holidays and every day They work tirelessly every shift, every day. Most never anticipated living through a pa... November 29, 2020 He was looking for a liver giver and she delivered Wayne Brown posted on Facebook that he needed a new liver. A long-time friend saw his p... November 24, 2020 IU Health Frankfort Hospital now open The new IU Health Frankfort Hospital is open and ready to serve you. A fence around the... November 24, 2020 Nurse down 75 pounds: ‘Self-care is vital, especially during a pandemic’ As a progressive critical care nurse, Kristy Fields sees many patients treated for symp... November 23, 2020 Q4 2020 Quarterly Report: COVID-19 brings community together, while social distancing Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... November 23, 2020 Father of five girls gets wish with hospital bedside wedding Seven weeks ago, Matthew Rynearson was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor. When he e... November 20, 2020 Transplant Gratitude Triggers $1 Million in Funding Technically, Jerome Josephs received a kidney when he underwent a transplant at IU Heal... November 19, 2020 In the Midst of a Pandemic, Three Foundation Team Members Achieve International Certification Diane Buzzell, Julie Paolillo and Kate Konzen have several new letters after their name... November 19, 2020 Rock band member chooses IU Health for testicular cancer treatment Minnesota native Ryan Keyes came to Indianapolis to play drums in a rock band. Now, he’...