At a recording studio in Falls Church, Virginia, musician Stuart Jewell works on a long-cherished dream to record a song that he wrote almost thirty years ago. Now a stage 3 cancer patient, Jewell describes his long hours at the studio as therapeutic as he battles the disease.
"When I play music, I don't feel like a cancer patient anymore," Jewell says, between takes. "I look forward to it all the time. I still get stage fright, I still flub things up when I play but I don't care, I just want to be able to play out as much as I can."
Jewell wrote the roots rock song Perseid Rain in 1986, before he was diagnosed with cancer, but it was after his illness that he decided to record it and leave behind a musical legacy for his family and friends.
"I don't really know in terms of my condition how much longer I have to live or nothing. I don't want to know, so given an opportunity like this to get my song recorded, it's totally gratis, so how could I turn it down?"
That opportunity came from music producer Jim Ebert whose foundation Cancer Can Rock allows musicians with cancer an opportunity to record a song for posterity.
"There's no perks in cancer, so I said what can I do? I can provide a perk - here's this little thing that I can do and if I can do eight artists a year for the next six years then I have helped 50 people through this," explained Ebert who started the foundation almost three years ago.
Himself a brain cancer survivor who was given one year to live, 14 years ago, Ebert's cancer shrouded his life with a constant sense of impermanence, and that made him want to leave behind something for his friends and family to remember him by.
"When I got sick I was feeling very temporary. Cancer does that to you where you just don't know how you are going to live, where you are going to live... So I thought what can I do that's permanent? I thought I can make a song for an artist that's permanent for them, their family regardless of what happens health-wise, their family will always have it," Ebert said.
Jewell is the fourth cancer patient to record a song in Ebert's studio space that he rents out from Falls Church-based Cue Recording Studios.
In the coming year, Ebert hopes to raise awareness and funding for his foundation, but in the meantime he says he just wants his artistes to leave his studio feeling upbeat and productive as they navigate the often unpredictable twists and turns of a life with cancer.