Tracy Thomas can pinpoint the moment the idea for his non-profit Project of Love Music began. He was in a room at MD Anderson in 2012, waiting to hear if the kidney cancer he had been clear of for the previous thirteen years had come back. “The big head of the department was going to come in,” he recalls, “and we’re sitting there, my wife and I. I told myself, ‘If he comes in and I get a clean bill of health, I’m going to dedicate myself to love.’” Tracy pauses. “And then I said, ‘No, I’m going to do it anyway.’”
Tracy found out that day his cancer had come back with a vengeance. It had invaded his remaining kidney (his left one was removed after his cancer diagnosis at age 28 years), parts of his lungs, lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs, many of which were removed. For the past four years, Tracy has taken a powerful drug called Votrient, which has kept his Stage Four kidney cancer at bay. It has severe side effects, including vomiting, muscle cramps, fevers, and high blood pressure. It bleaches his hair and skin ash-white. All of the side effects make Tracy’s work as a movie stuntman challenging, but he needs to work to maintain his Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) membership, so he can continue receiving health insurance. The insurance pays for his cancer treatment, including Votrient’s $8,000-$10,000/month cost, as well as his 16-year-old son’s health care.
Living with and being treated for cancer is “an arduous journey,” which requires the cancer survivor to have coping skills. Tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism help Tracy push through Voltrient’s side effects and prevent the prospect of death from consuming him. “Every day, I have to make a concerted effort to live, and I do it moment by moment,” he told me. He has never asked his doctors for his prognosis because “that’s using vital energy that I could have right here and right now.” Instead, Tracy uses his “vital energy” to help survivors of cancer and other “physical, mental and emotional challenges” by creating art, music and film. That is the premise of the Project of Love Music (POLM.)
Within POLM, Tracy has developed projects such as HopeLocker, which gives cancer survivors the opportunity “to tell their stories in their own words” using various art forms and media. Tracy supplies audio-video recording equipment to produce the survivor’s creation and will compose music if requested. Other POLM projects in the works include art and music classes taught at the Rustic Barn, an event venue owned by Tracy’s family in Keithsville, and Rock Operaz, where survivors and their caregivers, families and friends can create 1970s-style rock operas.
Tracy also “outsources arts programs… to non-arts-related” organizations and initiatives for survivors. For instance, Tracy has worked with the Smile High Club, started by a movie stuntman. Smile High sets up “a computerized flying system and other equipment at hospitals all over the country,” so kids with cancer and other illnesses can “fly” like superheroes. Tracy creates music and art with kids while they are waiting for their turn to fly.
Tracy recently became involved in an event called Equestrian Chaos. Created by the non-profit Celisse’s School of Equestrian Arts in Mobile, Alabama, Equestrian Chaos provides children with special needs the chance to perform horseback riding stunts with professional riders. Tracy was transfixed by the sight of ten-year-old girls standing up on horses going at full gallop in a “sacred circle.” He said the sight of the girls living in the moment and wholly connected to the earth through literal horse power was “a microcosm of perfect harmony.”
In dedicating himself to love through his POLM project, Tracy receives the love that helps him cope with his illness. When he drew art with the kids who were waiting to ride in Equestrian Chaos, he said, “It made me feel like I was shining inside. Kids with special needs don’t have egos. I can shine like them in my soul.”
To learn more about Tracy Thomas and his non-profit, visit