A singer-songwriter finds inspiration in a life-threatening condition
After her guitarist once called Chloe Temtchine ’01 20 minutes before a show to say he wasn’t feeling well enough to perform, the singer-songwriter made a personal pledge. “From that day on, I vowed to myself, I’d know how to play every instrument so I’d never have to be reliant on another musician,” Temtchine says.
And she did. Still, there is one constant companion Temtchine cannot perform without: her oxygen tank. Diagnosed in 2013 with a life-threatening form of pulmonary hypertension, Temtchine is dependent on supplementary oxygen 24 hours a day.
The sight of a young woman singing on stage with a breathing tube in her nose is a shock to some audiences at first, and Temtchine understands this. There was a time when she herself couldn’t imagine performing while attached to her life-sustaining oxygen tank. But these days she incorporates the tank — which she has named Steve Martin — into her act, dressing it in a tie and using its metal sides as a percussion instrument. She even created a YouTube parody of a Taylor Swift love song in praise of it.
“I have found a way through my music to actually help people — to create strength for myself and for others as well.”
– Chloe Temtchine ’01
CA classmates might remember Temtchine for her role as Dorothy in The Wiz or for the song she wrote and performed in her chapel talk, paying tribute to her CA teachers and peers. After graduation, she spent two years at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. In 2009, she released her first album, Between Day & Dream. But then health problems began to overtake her life. She suffered from coughing fits, which hampered her performances, and shortness of breath that made her nearly immobile. Several years of bewildering misdiagnoses followed. After a severe medical emergency in 2013, she was diagnosed with pulmonary veno-occlusive disease and told she might have only days to live.
“The diagnosis was as shocking as it could possibly be,” Temtchine recalls. “I finally went home from the hospital because the doctors said there was nothing they could do for me. Their future for me was no future. So I had to create my own future and believe it in even though they said it didn’t exist.”
Determined to set her own path to wellness, Temtchine developed for herself five principles of health: exercise, mindset, nutritional lifestyle, family and friends, and creative expression. That last principle was the genesis of her next album, Be Brave, released in 2015. “I really believe that album saved me,” Temtchine says. “I had so much to say, and the easiest way for me to say it was through music. I was so lost. I wrote those songs for myself as a message of hope. And it turns out if you write for yourself, what you write has a chance of resonating with other people.”
The stylish, talented, fit young singer attached to an oxygen tank has had a ripple effect. “I learned that there are a lot of kids who should be on oxygen but resist it because of the way it looks,” Temtchine says. “So I made it my goal to make oxygen cool. And soon I was getting emails saying that because I’m on stage with an oxygen tank, a kid who gave up hope has found hope again, is wearing her oxygen to school, wants to be a singer.”
Now living with her partner in Los Angeles, Temtchine is preparing to release her fourth album later this year and is working on a documentary about pulmonary hypertension. She has recently embarked on a project called the Smile Tour, visiting and performing for chronically ill patients at children’s hospitals all over the country, and she has started a foundation to generate funding for these endeavors. She also spreads the message of her five principles through her lifestyle website, lifebychloe.com.
“Everyone is going through something challenging,” she says. “For me, this diagnosis is simultaneously a blessing and curse. There are days I wake up not feeling well and think, ‘I would do anything not to have this condition.’ But other times I realize how strangely fulfilling it has been for me. I have found a way through my music to actually help people — to create strength for myself and for others as well.”