Cancer survivor brings musical message to York

Margarita Cambest
  • Charlie Lustman's Musical Hope Campaign tour included stops in York and Adams counties.
  • The cancer survivor will visit the Sechler Family Cancer Center and Ephrata Cancer Center on Dec. 13.

Lori Eckenrode has shed a few tears in her 35 years as a nurse and five years in oncology.

The job requires the Conewago Township resident to see patients at their worst, so when she and other staff members at the York Cancer Center were thanked for their service with a musical message Monday, the tears flowed freely.

“Why choose nurse oncology?” Charlie Lustman, a cancer survivor, sang to the group of nurses. “There has to be some easier way to spend your day. … My patients, friends and families — they all depend on me and that is why I’m proud to work in nurse oncology.”

The serenade was part of Lustman’s Musical Hope Campaign tour, which included stops in York and Adams counties. The York Cancer Center sees about 80 patients for treatment each day and 30 to 40 for follow-up care, according to a spokesperson.

The California-based singer paused in doorways, stepping into offices to thank staff members for their service to cancer patients, before heading upstairs to visit the center’s infusion department.

Cancer survivor Charlie Lustman holds his signature 000X Hiippe Martin guitar while visiting WellSpan's York Cancer Center, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

“I realized this stuff works,” Lustman said. “If it works for me, I’ve got to empower others.”

The paid tour was arranged after a senior WellSpan official heard Lustman sing at a conference.

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Since 2007, the 51-year-old has made singing about cancer his full-time job, hoping to turn the power of music and a message of living life to the fullest into inspiration for those undergoing cancer treatment.

After getting diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his jaw, the singer and former owner of a silent movie theater in California turned to song despite doctors saying he wouldn’t be able to speak again, let alone sing.  With the help of a prosthetic jaw that he pulled out to show nurses and a Technicolored acoustic guitar, he said, he was able to keep doing what he loved.

“He’s just awesome at living his life,” said Dr. Reena Pramanik. “Working here teaches you that."

The WellSpan Health physician said she’s lucky to have a job that gives her purpose, something Lustman sings about in his songs.

“For a cancer patient, what’s the opposite of being afraid to die?” he asked of his method of “flipping” life to embrace the unexpected. “It’s living life like you’ve never lived before.”