On certain days, Dr. Steven Eisenberg says he has a really tough job.
“Telling people that they may have terminal diseases is heart wrenching every time,” said Eisenberg, oncologist at Pacific Oncology Hematology Associates in Vista.
What comes next is still difficult, but a little more fun.
Eisenberg's patients hear more than heart monitors beeping or the hum of medical devices when they check in, courtesy of the guitar Eisenberg uses to help guide patients and their families through medical uncertainty.
Eisenberg works long hours, but that doesn’t stop him from staying up past midnight working on song lyrics to perform for his patients.
It is no solo act.
He spends hours on the phone or in person getting to know his patients so they become the co-writer of the song. The end result is a set of notes involving much more than white blood cell counts and reading Cat scans.
“We Are One” is the song Eisenberg wrote for breast cancer patient Lauren Banks. The lyrics don’t say much about her cancer, but rather remind her about everything else in her life – Bank’s song covers everything from her feeling “tired and burned” to her love for laughter and candles.
"It is so on the money, so 100 percent accurate," Banks said. "It's great."
She says the doctor's compassion helped her get to where she is today – cancer free.
“Your life becomes about the treatment,and you’re completely absorbed in it," Eisenberg said. "The idea here is a gentle reminder of who you really are."
The songs aren’t just for patients being treated for cancer, but also for those in hospice, who cannot be treated. In fact, Eisenberg serves as a Medical Director for LightBridge Hospice writing songs for the patients.
"There was a peace knowing that their song would always be there," Eisenberg said.
“He brings a clinical skill and emotional skill that is just amazing,” said Jill Mendlen, Founder and CEO of LightBridge Hospice. "He's a true gift."
The doctor has also started the Lyrical Life Foundation.
“If I can just help you feel a little bit better than you did when you walked through that door," Eisenberg said, "then I think I did a good job that day."