Music and Mass General. These are the two things Andrew Marshall credits with saving his life, leading him to live out his passion for music today as a contestant on “The Voice.”

Five years ago, at the age of 16, Marshall came to Massachusetts General Hospital after he suddenly developed jaundiced eyes. He spent three days in the hospital being tested for a number of possible causes –tuberculosis, hepatitis, mononucleosis, and even leukemia. The tests all came back negative. It wasn’t until Alison Friedmann, MD, clinical director of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Unit at Mass General for Children, insisted upon one further test that Marshall’s diagnosis was finally determined.

“Dr. Friedmann came in that final evening and was like ‘let me grab a chair.’ I knew then what it was and that I’d fight through it,” says Marshall, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a type of blood cancer that starts in the white blood cells in bone marrow. “It’s crazy because none of my symptoms pointed toward leukemia at first. So to think that my doctor – following her own hunch and passion for the job – never gave up until she knew what was happening to me, it’s so heartwarming. Coming to Mass General, what a great decision that was.”

The now 21-year-old Marshall underwent treatment for his leukemia for 3 ½ years, during which time he graduated from Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford, Massachusetts and began college—studying music business at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Throughout these years, music remained his passion and he credits it as the main thing that got him through, especially during the darkest of times.

“There was a time I was too weak to play the guitar or sing, and that’s when listening to music, especially John Mayer, saved me,” Marshall says. “That’s why I want to do something with music. I want to do something that makes me go the extra mile, something that can help save someone’s life. When connecting to songs and what I was going through, I could imagine myself getting through it. That saved my life just as much as my doctor did. Both brought me to focus on music in a way I didn’t before my cancer diagnosis.”

Another way that music helped him throughout his battle with leukemia—music therapy. Working with Lorrie Kubicek, MT-BC, co-director of the Mass General Cancer Center Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program and lead music therapist, helped Marshall gain his confidence to play music again. He credits Kubicek as always lifting him up, no matter what, helping him heal significantly.

“I don’t know how my life will pan out,” says Marshall. “‘The Voice’ has opened so many doors for me in terms of music and my future – but if the time comes, I would go back to school to become a music therapist, really because of the incredible people I encountered at Mass General and the kindness and passion they showed for their work.”

Next week, Marshall continues his journey on “The Voice” as a member of Team Nick Jonas. Live rounds will begin Monday, May 10 at 8 pm ET on NBC. These rounds are the final phase of the competition and pit the top contestants against one another, with viewers voting for their favorite artists to continue on to the next rounds. Viewers can vote using The Voice Official App or on the NBC site.

The members of Team Nick Jonas from The Voice
Andrew Marshall and his teammates on Team Nick Jonas (Photo Credit: NBC/The Voice)

Marshall continues to take things day-by-day and encourages those facing a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment to do the same, and, more importantly, to take it easy on themselves.

“Whether your treatment is 6 months or 3 years, you can’t look at how many days you have left. You have to look at the one day in front of you and the one behind you,” he says. “Be patient with yourself and remember that every feeling you are feeling is valid. You don’t need to be Superman, but you can if you want to. You can do a lot more than you think you can, but if sometimes you feel down, that’s OK. It’s all temporary.”

Marshall’s own self-acceptance, music, therapy and being on the show continue to play major roles in his journey of beating his bout with cancer and forging through life as a cancer survivor.

“There’s a lot of people that flock to support you during the experience, but there’s still this big trauma that you face afterward,” says Marshall. “Thanks to my incredible doctors and nurses, and the unbelievable experience on ‘The Voice,’ I’ve begun really accepting and loving who I am as a person. I’ve felt a huge seismic change in myself from this show, and I feel excited to keep learning to love myself, because that really is the most rewarding journey.”


Photo Credit: NBC/The Voice