Before getting sidetracked by cancer, Molly Oldham was your typical 19-year-old college student who dreamed of making it to Broadway.
She was following that dream as a musical theater major at the University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2019 when a sudden diagnosis stopped her in her tracks.
Molly found out she had a grade 3 anaplastic ependymal, which is a brain tumor. It was already the size of a tennis ball, and it started causing multiple seizures.
“I just wanted to be a normal 19-year-old,” she said. “And when I was diagnosed with cancer, I realized, OK, that probably isn’t going to happen for a while.”
She began a rigorous treatment program that left her exhausted and forced her to spend long hours at Duke Health. Molly longed for the days when learning her lines and hitting the right notes were her biggest concerns. In fact, she said the largest toll her illness took was missing out on practicing her craft.
“I want to sing with my friends, I want to dance with my friends,” she explained. “They didn’t know if I was gong to be able to talk, to be able to dance. They didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk.”
To lift her spirits, Molly began to sing by herself in her hospital room. Soon, the staff at Duke Health knew her as the aspiring musician who happened to be fighting for her life. One day, a nurse named David Duckett stopped by to say hello. While he has never thought of himself as a singer, when Molly asked him to do a duet with her, he couldn’t say no!
To Molly’s delight, David has an incredible voice! The two of them shared a moving duet that Molly’s friend recorded. When it was posted online, it didn’t take long to go viral.
No one was more surprised than David, who said he never expected their performance to blow up. Of course, he has zero regrets about singing with Molly! It even reaffirmed his reasons for going into health care in the first place.
“To have moments like that makes you feel like yes, this is my why, why I do this day in and day out,” he said. “This is why we do what we do.”
Singing with David was just the tip of the iceberg for Molly! When other staff members at Duke Health heard about the video, they started stopping by her room to sing and dance with her too. It was their way of giving her the normalcy she craved, and it brightened everyone’s days immeasurably.
“To have a lot of people, not just one or two, but a lot of people just let me be me, even in the hospital, sing with me, dance with me, make jokes with me, it was so relieving,” Molly said. “Even if it was for a short amount of time, I just got to be me.”
Molly has since beaten cancer and is back doing what she loves at UNC Greensboro. She credits hospital employees like David for helping her preserve her passion for performing during her darkest hours.
“Everyone has something that brings them down, everyone has a challenge in life,” she said. “But if you can just hold on to those things that are good, if you can find something that brings you joy, and you hold on to that — your life is going to be so much brighter.”
She certainly has a winning attitude! With a talent and drive like hers, we’re certain we’ll be hearing more from this rising star in the future!
Watch David and Molly’s sweet duet in the video below, and don’t forget to share this story to make someone smile.