By Sarah Bello
World-renowned violinist and Astoria resident Kim Angelis has been put through the wringer over the past decade.
First, her husband and musical partner, Josef Gault, developed early onset dementia and went to live in a memory care facility. Then, Angelis was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatment required placing a port below her left clavicle, preventing her from playing the violin—which was her escape.
“To play the violin is to feel alive," says Angelis. In 50 years of playing the violin, she had not gone more than two weeks without practicing.
“Playing the violin is what God wanted me to do,” Angelis said. “Many people struggle with finding their purpose in life, and I never had to. I’ve been very blessed that way.”
As a professional violinist, Angelis has performed worldwide. Her music was played in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and in films and ballets.
After college, Angelis met and married her husband, a guitarist. For years, they played concerts together, traveling around the world. More than 15 years ago, they moved to Astoria. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the move would prove to be instrumental later, as it put her closer to Columbia Memorial Hospital and the necessary treatment for what was to come.
Fortunately for Angelis, Columbia Memorial Hospital and OHSU had embarked on a partnership in cancer care years before. Months before she was diagnosed, the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative opened, offering radiation therapy for the first time in the region.
After chemotherapy and a mastectomy, Angelis’ port was removed. She could play the violin again but had no concert engagements scheduled—nothing to work for. Then, her insurance company told her it wouldn’t pay for radiation therapy at the Cancer Collaborative close to her home.
“I was super upset, Angelis said. “I think I was more upset about that than anything else.”
However, she prayed and calmly called again the next week. To her surprise, the company about-faced and said she could get treatment at Cancer Collaborative.
“I was so relieved and so grateful,” Angelis said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if I couldn’t have had radiation here. Because it’s daily, and being on my own, and with two dogs and a cat, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
Beginning to Play Again
Still, without a concert to work toward, her depression lingered. When the radiation techs noticed that Angelis was down, Radiation Oncologist Dr. Sahar Rosenbaum encouraged her to play at the Cancer Collaborative.
“Immediately, the cloud was lifted off my spirit,” Angelis said, lighting up. “That day, I went home and practiced with joy.
“It was a turning point for me.”
Angelis played at the Cancer Collaborative on her last day of radiation treatment. She performed in her first full-length concert on December 2, 2018. She hopes to play many more soon and plans to record a new CD this year. Her story, she says, isn’t finished. It’s still being written.
“I’d like to close this chapter with my sincere gratitude to Columbia Memorial Hospital and the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative for going the extra mile—caring for not just the patient’s body, but for the heart, mind and soul, as well.”
By Sarah Bello