As Kelly Milotay scrolls through pictures of her son Asher’s past, she remembers fondly how her 10-year-old would ask to go to the thrift store by herself so she could buy a blazer.
“He’s always been his own little dude,” she says proudly.
When he wasn’t curating vintage clothes (leather jacket, pea coat), Asher was doing stand-up comedy at birthday parties and nailing every joke.
“This kid had a sense of timing that I could not replicate if I tried,” Kelly says.
But then Asher’s mental health started unexpectedly suffering. None of the usual treatments seemed to help, although gardening with his mom always made him smile.
“The daffodils you see out front,” Kelly says, fighting back tears. “He and I planted them together that fell.”
That was before Asher suffered an excruciating headache one day, lost control of his right arm and leg, and was rushed to the hospital by helicopter.
Asher was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.
“We didn’t know if he was going to make it,” Kelly cries. “I thought that’s all I would have left – the daffodils.”
Asher never saw the flowers bloom that spring. He was in the midst of more than eight months of treatment at multiple hospitals.
He was left unable to move his left side, or answer simple yes or no questions.
“But what could you do?” Kelly asks Asher, who’s now back home.
“I could sing!” Asher smiles.
Although Asher couldn’t recall his age, he could sing every lyric to every one of his favorite songs.
His doctors urged Kelly to contact a certified music therapist.
She contacted the Island Kids Cancer Association and Asher started working with Supriya Kalathil Crocker.
“We know that music touches the brain instantly across the board,” says Supriya.
When Supriya begins her session with Asher, you can see his face usually still suddenly bursts into a smile.
Whether he’s making music on a xylophone, or singing along to the Beatles, the boy bounces rhythmically in his wheelchair, performing therapeutic choreography, expressing unbridled joy.
“Being able to express creatively helps us process, helps us heal,” Supriya says. “And I think in Asher’s case it’s definitely part of his healing journey.”
After several months of working with Supriya, Asher’s mental health is flourishing, his body has begun to move, and after the latest diagnosis from his doctors, his first song has been written.
“I got the news today,” sings Asher, accompanied by Supriya’s guitar. “I beat cancer, hurray!”
“When I focus on how far he’s come, it’s amazing,” Kelly says. “He’s accomplished so much.
“I’m getting stronger every day!” Asher beams.
Although Asher is just beginning his healing journey, Kelly couldn’t be more grateful it includes caring professionals like Supriya, stops to appreciate the blooming flowers they planted, and a soundtrack filled with hopeful hits.