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Healing through Music and Teaching after Breast Cancer

Kaci Whitby, a budding country singer and music teacher, was blindsided by a stage III breast cancer diagnosis at age 31. After genetic testing, experts at Huntsman Cancer Institute discovered she had the BRCA mutation. This mutation increases the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Now in follow-up care after completing treatment, Kaci continues to heal through her love of music and teaching.

Video transcript

I wrote a song and that I released called "Fighter in Me" and I wrote it originally—I wanted to as a teacher, I wanted to have a song that I could send my students to, you know, to be like believe in yourself, believe that there’s a fighter in you and that you can do anything. And then all of a sudden I had cancer and I had to believe those words in myself too—that there was a fighter in me.

I was actually just staying up all night watching TV, and I just happened to be laying in bed and I just like rubbed my hand like right here, you know, and I felt a lump. I came to the South Jordan Huntsman Clinic and she did a biopsy, and I was like—it was just one of those surreal experiences. I got the call and it was Dr. Nicole again and she said, "I’m sorry, but it’s cancer." And I met with the surgeon first and he was like I definitely think you need chemo, but I also think you need to get some genetic testing and an MRI done. Never in my whole life had that really been something I felt like I needed to worry about. And we found out that I did have the BRCA mutation.

After I got done with chemo and surgery—because it was what let us know if I still had cancer cells—like my lymph nodes came back clean, which was super awesome. And it just, it meant that, like, my treatment—like there was no evidence of disease.

I am having routine appointments every couple of months. I just come in, do an ultrasound, draw some blood. I absolutely love my doctors, so it’s nice to be able to see them, but it’s sometimes really hard to come here and to walk by the infusion room and to remember what that was like, and to be so grateful to be on this side of it but then to see people still going through it.

I get to love on my nieces, and I just am so grateful like I can’t even explain how grateful I am that, like, I get to still spend time with them and spend time with my family.

I teach and I love my kids. I love knowing that they get excited when they see me. I’m still here and I still play a role in helping them and being a part of their life. And I don’t take that for granted because I know what it’s like to need someone and to need something and I’m grateful that I get to do that and I’m grateful that I get to use music, you know. I started a big project while I was going through it all of writing songs with my kids and helping them like write their lyrics and putting music to it. These are the moments that I get super grateful for, you know, that I’m just like this is worth living for. This is why I fought to get better.

Kaci's cancer care team included: Elizabeth Prystas, MD, oncologist; Jane Poretta, MD, surgeon; Alvin C. Kwok, MD, reconstructive surgeon

Music helps us express ourselves, connect with others, and lift our spirits. To learn more about music therapy services provided by Huntsman Cancer Institute, call 801-587-4585.

Cancer touches all of us.