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Music therapy brings healing power to 5-year-old Riley cancer patient

For the last 10 months, Naomi Filpus has been fighting for her life. But she's finding strength and hope from an unexpected place.

INDIANAPOLIS — Five-year-old Naomi Filpus has stage 4 neuroblastoma. When she wakes up and sees her music therapist Caitlin Krater, she knows it's going to be a good day.

She's at Riley Hospital for Children recovering from her second stem cell transplant.

"You don't imagine your 5-year-old, who loves to eat healthy food, to be diagnosed with cancer," said her mother, Esther.

That's exactly what happened. 

For the last 10 months, Naomi has been fighting for her life. But she's finding strength and hope from an unexpected place.

"That day when Caitlin had come into the room, Naomi had a bit of pain that day and was on pain medication. It was amazing because the day she was there, Naomi didn't have to have any pain medications for about two hours," Esther said.

Krater said there is healing power in every note, and that's what makes the therapy so successful.

"She was able to feel comfortable with me. That is such a gift, and really that's the music. We are singing songs that are special to her and her family and that is helping her feel connected and safe here," she said.

Krater said musical therapy is limited because it's not covered by many insurance companies. The program is funded by philanthropy and donations.

Naomi's mother said the benefits are priceless.

"She has become braver and stronger in the last ten months than I ever thought possible. Music has been a big part of that for her," she said.

Credit: Filpus family photo
Naomi Filpus sings into a microphone as part of her music therapy at Riley Hospital for Children.

Filpus said it's not just the music, but the type of music that makes the difference for her family.

"For us, our faith in Christ is important. We have had to fight for joy in this battle. When we fill our minds with words from the music, that is what brings us hope," said Filpus.

With the help of music therapy and prayer, they are already claiming victory.

"We fully believe that God has numbered Naomi's' days. She won't live one day less day than what he has already ordained, but we won't stop fighting for every day," said Filpus.

For more information about Riley Children Hospital music therapy, click here.