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Mom's Personal, Poignant Moment With Critically Ill Son Goes Viral

Published March 9, 2018 | Updated July 10, 2018

screen grab of Abby Tanner singing at pianoClick to view Facebook video
screen grab of Abby Tanner singing at piano

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Staff at the Duke Cancer Center captured a mother's personal moment with her critically ill son, and it is gaining widespread attention on Facebook.

Abby Tanner, 34, was in between appointments for her son, Lincoln, who has a rare form of “migrating” epilepsy. She saw an unoccupied piano at the Duke Cancer Center and sat down to play “Never Enough,” from the musical The Greatest Showman. After seeing the movie recently, she wanted to learn the song, but had only played it twice before it was captured on video.

For this busy mom of 3, having five minutes alone with a piano and a quiet baby is a rare opportunity, she said.

"Singing and playing has always been my way of processing my emotions, and it's a double-blessing to be able to bring hope or encouragement to whomever may be listening," Tanner said.

Lincoln, now 14 months old, has been having seizures since he was just days old, eventually diagnosed with a severe and rare condition called malignant migrating partial seizures of infancy (MMPSI). Many children with the condition do not survive past infancy or early childhood. As a result, he is frequently in the hospital.

“I’m very keenly aware of where all the pianos are at all of the hospitals we stay at,” said Tanner, who has been singing since age 4. “Any chance I get, I try to sneak away to a piano. I’m not an emotional person, so the way I process things best is by playing it out.”

Tanner and her husband J.T. have two older children -- Chloe, 3, and a son Cash, who is 5 -- and say their strength is rooted in their faith.

“We are all going to die,” Tanner said. “We just happen to know what it is that is going to take Lincoln. But epilepsy isn’t going to rob us of the joy of life. Lincoln will probably never walk, he will never learn to hold a spoon, he will never say ‘I love you,’ but we don’t let that suck us into a dark abyss of hopelessness. There’s so much joy, too, and we have gained a really good perspective on the things that matter.”

The original video is posted on the Duke Cancer Institute’s Facebook page.

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