Cancer Journey Inspires New Musical-Interview with Joni Hilton

Submitted by UCSF Urology on May 7, 2015 at 6:34 pm
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share via E-mail

When writer Joni Hilton’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, they decided they would face this adversity with the same spirit as they face their work…through laughter and fortitude.  From this call-to-duty, they set out to write a musical The Best Medicine on the experience of the cancer journey.  They’ve pooled together a stellar team and released the first of 18 songs free to share.

We asked Joni to comment on their work and the experience:Joni and Bob Hilton

Q: Cancer is such a serious topic, does comedy help? 

A: I've written several award-winning plays, all comedies, and as Bob and I went through his whole cancer journey, I kept jotting down hilarious things that would happen, or get said.  Finally I thought, "There's a gold mine, here.  THIS is how you address adversity."  And I thought doing a production about such a grave subject would be just funny enough, just edgy enough, to grab people's attention.  I really wanted everyone whose life has been touched by cancer (which IS everyone) to realize that yes, we can still laugh-- in fact, we need to.  But also, that what matters most is our relationships.  When all is said and done, it's about those we've loved.  

Q: Prostate cancer can have many side effects.  Does your musical have a message about this for the patients and caregivers?

A: Absolutely— in a tender love ballad called, I Just Want You to Live, the patient’s wife sings about what really matters.  There’s also some dialogue where she asks him to consider whether he would love her less if the tables were turned.  This helps patients and caregivers remember that the important thing is the relationship.

Q: Do you address the various treatment options? 

A: Yes— in a song called, My Uncle Died of That, we laugh at the many friends who all want to tell their horror story, instead of sympathizing with you.  In another humorous song, friends approach with every treatment—real and imagined-- under the sun. Later, Paul chooses surgery, and also discusses hormone therapy with other men in a support group, as they sing the hilarious Manly Man.

Q: What about looking at prostate cancer from the perspective of a caregiver?

A: We’re so excited to have what we think is the first song ever written as a tribute to caregivers.  We hope people will stand up and cheer for The New Normal, which even suggests ways to help ease their load.

Q: Your music video, What Makes a Woman, is about a woman not being defined by her breasts.  Yet the musical is mostly about prostate cancer.

A: It is.  But it also touches upon breast and uterine cancers.  A major message is that you are not this disease.  You are not your body parts.  If some of them are cut away, it doesn’t diminish who you really are inside, your personality, or your lovability.  The song, “What Makes a Woman” is available here:

Q: How do you keep such a serious topic upbeat?

A: By focusing on what really happened in our life, and what really matters.  You look for the positives, you use the good china, and you celebrate the little things.  Once you’re diagnosed with cancer, even if you survive, you still face your mortality.  And in the song,Oh,What a Ride We’ve Had, we realize how lucky we are to love another person so completely. How many people get a gift like that?


Topic Area(s):