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Processing Our Brain Cancer Journey Through Song

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Thirty-eight-year-old Scott Ryan Ingersoll lives and breathes music, growing up in a musical family in Spokane, Wash., and later pursuing a professional career as a songwriter and musician.  

Scott’s lyrical inspiration took an unexpected turn when his wife Juliann was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2019. 

In his words, Scott shares how he was moved to channel his family’s brain tumor journey through music. 

In January 2019, my wife Juliann, a high school Spanish teacher, had an awful migraine that left her disoriented and nauseous. On day two, she attempted to return to work with dizziness and visual issues and had an episode where she lost about eight minutes of time.  

When things intensified that evening, we ended up in the ER, and that began our brain cancer journey. An MRI revealed a mass that a biopsy later confirmed to be an astrocytoma. We spent weeks going to appointments as my wife healed from her biopsy, getting medical advice and learning about her diagnosis as we decided on a course of treatment.   

Treatment included resection (which actually ended up being two back-to-back operations over the course of two days) and months of radiation and chemo treatments. 

Needless to say, it was a very challenging time for our family. There was a lot of trauma and grief over how life had changed as we dealt with the diagnosis, and fear about the future.  

My kids were only three and six at the time, and I carried a lot for them as we navigated the treatments and mom’s time to heal. We were blessed with an outpouring of support from our family and community, through prayer, food, care, and financial help. It helped us make it through a very challenging time.  

Very grateful to say that as of now, her cancer activity is in remission, and she is doing very well. In the thick of my wife’s treatment, I didn’t know how to begin to process what I was feeling through music. In January of 2020, we were sent on a little ‘cancerversary’ trip to NYC, where we were fortunate enough to catch a show called ‘American Utopia’ by musician, David Byrne, on Broadway.  

It was a brilliant and inspiring show, and as it began, the curtain came up and Byrne was seated at a table, holding a replica of the human brain, which he proceeded to sing a song about. We realized right then that it was exactly a year to the day since we discovered the brain tumor and were overcome with gratitude by the moment of providence.  

When we returned home, I furiously started writing and processing all we had been through. The result is a collection of songs which I was finally able to record and release on an album this past year. 

I wrote a song called ‘Brain Surgery,’ which details the night we discovered her tumor and the path to her diagnosis. It was very cathartic to write and record this song, and I hope that it can be an encouragement to others walking a similar path. 

Follow along on Scott’s journey by connecting with him on Instagram or Spotify!

Listen to Scott's song "Brain Surgery":

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Jessie Schlacks

Jessie is Managing Editor of the bi-monthly e-newsletter MindMatters. Submit story ideas or questions to jschlacks@abta.org.