Seton Hill student battling cancer finds fame on YouTube
Singing was the last thing on her mind.
Erin McElhenny, a junior at Seton Hill University, Greensburg, was at the Cleveland Clinic last week for three days of chemotherapy treatment when an impromptu concert gave her some much-needed music therapy.
“It has brought my mood up a lot to do something I used to do prior to treatment. It’s just very healing,” she said.
The video she posted of her performance, titled “ Cancer Patient Singing While Undergoing Chemo Treatments ,” has already received 2,466 views on YouTube.
McElhenny, a vocal performance major at Seton Hill, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March 2018 but was able to complete the spring semester.
Since then, she has been undergoing treatments off and on at the Cleveland Clinic to prepare for a bone marrow transplant.
She was at the hospital on Jan. 23 when she decided to get a Starbucks coffee. She was in the lobby when she saw Kent Collier, a cellist with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, playing solo for the hospital’s performing arts program.
After listening to Collier play for a little while, the pair struck up a conversation. McElhenny, 23, of Erie, talked about her vocal studies and mentioned that she sings opera.
“He had me sing a few bars of the opera ‘La Boheme’ and then said, ‘Let’s sing some more,’ ” she said. “A bunch of doctors came along and were listening. Someone brought me flowers. It was so sweet.”
Dressed in her pajamas and still hooked up to an IV, McElhenny sang pieces by Schubert, Puccini and Richard Rogers.
“I was a little self-conscious at first. Then people started to gather around. It just kind happened naturally. I’m used to singing in front of crowds,” she said.
McElhenny first posted the video on Facebook and Twitter, and when it started getting a lot of likes, she decided to post it on YouTube.
McElhenny noted that her alma mater, McDowell High School, is the alma mater of another recent graduate who has battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.
“He graduated two years ahead of me, and while I did not know him, I would have sung the national anthem at some of his high school football games,” she said.
McElhenny said she is looking forward to returning to Seton Hill in the fall and getting the chance to perform with Setonia, the women’s chorale, and seeing her friends and professors once again.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.