Thrive by IU Health

Pancreatic cancer patient: Music is part of his life

IU Health University Hospital

Pancreatic cancer patient: Music is part of his life

He’s played piano since the age of three. So when Wesley Tedrow learned that music therapy was available at IU Health University Hospital he was anxious to tickle the ivories.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

He once paid $5 for secondhand piano at a surplus store and had it delivered to his fourth-grade classroom. Wesley Tedrow knows from experience the pure joy that music brings to most any situation.

“Fourth grade is about stepping up and being responsible. I used the music to help them relax, manage test anxiety, and just have fun,” said Tedrow, a Franklin Township teacher. “I’ve had kids come back and say, ‘I know you taught us stuff but when we played goofy songs, that was something to remember.’”

Before he was a teacher, Tedrow worked in the mental health field. He then worked as a house manager at a place that is near and dear to his heart – Hilbert Circle Theatre - home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Tedrow and his wife, Casey, met at the Hilbert Theatre when they served as ushers during their college years.

The combined experience in music and mental health is something Tedrow recognized in his healing.

“I knew if I could get him to sit down at the keyboard, he’d relax and the pain would subside,” said Casey Tedrow. The pain she talks about was during her husband’s recovery from an April 13 Whipple procedure performed by IU Health surgeon Dr. Nick Zyromski, also a musician.

The Whipple procedure, also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is an operation performed to remove cancerous tumors off the head of the pancreas. Tedrow’s diagnosis was unique. He had rare, aggressive neuroendocrine tumors (NETs).

It was March 8, 2021 when Tedrow received the news after an endoscopy – he had pancreatic cancer.

“I knew enough about cancer that I knew it was not good,” said Tedrow, 45. “I was referred to IU Health because I had the ‘VIP-noma’ – the most uncommon,” he said.

He and his wife celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary playing Yahtzee at IU Health University Hospital. They are the parents to two children, a son, 17, and a daughter, 12.

Tedrow was walking the hallways, trying to find relief from his post-surgery pain when he first met IU Health music therapist Adam Perry.

Perry sits at the bedside of patients and plays keyboard and guitar and encourages them to join him on the instrument of choice. He is one of several CompleteLife therapists attending to the body, spirit, and mind of patients and caregivers. Other therapies include massage, yoga, and art. The therapists are part of IU Health’s Cancer Resource Center on the first floor of University Hospital.

As Tedrow recently played the classical piano piece, “Prelude in C Major” by Johann Sebastian Bach he seemed to forget for a moment he was in a hospital room. His interest in music goes back to his mom, Sue Tedrow, who plays hymns in church.

“As soon as I could haul myself onto the bench, ‘I said I can do this,’” said Tedrow. “I didn’t make much of an effort to read music until I was a senior in high school I had a few sporadic lessons but when I had to practice 30 minutes a day, I resented it. For me, playing music is personal and expressive,” he said.

At home, he plays a 1940s upright Baldwin that his father, Ray Tedrow, gave him as a wedding present. In addition to playing for enjoyment, he has also performed a few benefit concerts for missionaries and people with mental disabilities.

“I’ve always resisted music as my profession. It’s my passion and it’s my therapy,” said Tedrow. “I had no idea there was music therapy in the hospital. Just to focus on something other than cancer and what I’ve been dealing with for months lifted a lot of that hopelessness.”

Related:

IU Health surgeon's music helps everyone at hospital (IndyStar)

Related Services