Art Helps People with Cancer Cope

A desire to create brought Mary Hammond, Ruth Camien and Annabell Thomas together on a recent Thursday morning at the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center. But art wasn't the only reason they were there. Each of their images is colored by cancer.

Camien says she came to the class because cancer taught her everyone needs to ask for help. She says she thought the class might help her relax, and she figured meeting people going through what she was wouldn't be a bad thing either.

Gwen McClain of Midland Hospice is an art therapist, who facilitates the group each week at Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center. She says not everyone likes the typical talking support group sessions, so this class gives people with cancer a chance to get in touch with their creative side. She says that may also help them be more creative in how they combat cancer.

The art is only part of the picture. Participants draw on the strength of each other, sharing experiences, strategies for coping, fears and humor.

McClain says the art that flows from the sessions has given some an "ah-ha!" moment, where they realize they didn't know they'd felt a certain way, or they discover the image they've created reveals a lot more positive in their life than they realized.

And don't worry whether you can create a masterpiece.

"The important thing is drawing skills are not important!" McClain stressed.

It's the sharing of their hopes, their dreams, their world that's the true work of art.

"I know I have a spirit and I know other people have a spirit and I know my spirit is connected to other spirits," Camien said. "We find strength in that connection with each other."

The art therapy classes meet from 9:30 to 10:30 am every Thursday at the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center in Topeka. It's free. Call the Cancer Center to register at (785) 354-5300.


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