Art as therapy after a cancer diagnosis

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While I personally haven’t experienced the emotions and stress associated with a cancer diagnosis, I am no stranger to the difficulty of dealing with overwhelming emotions. As a person living with an anxiety disorder, I had to find ways to deal with it. At the time of my life when my anxiety was manifesting, I was a graduate student of photography. My study program required me to create a thesis project that combined a body of artwork with a cohesive concept.

What started as a requirement for graduation turned out to be an opportunity to discover and understand my own emotions. It was my introduction to art as a form of therapy.

I have created an art series with the intention of using my photography to relieve my anxiety. Through the process of artistic creation, I discovered more about myself and my mind, and gained knowledge and tools to help combat my disorder.

To reap the benefits of art therapy, you don’t have to be an artist, you don’t even have to love art. The only prerequisite is that you have an open mind, because creating art for healing is different from creating art that can be used in a gallery. Motivation is internal. A 2018 review found benefits including reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue in breast cancer patients. An article by Lynne Eldridge, MD, notes the benefits found in a study of women creating art while undergoing radiation therapy,

“Those who participated improved their overall health, overall quality of life, physical health and psychological health. Positive benefits have been seen in body image, management of systemic (whole body) side effects of treatment, and in “future outlook” or a sense of HOPE. ”

Another benefit is establishing a sense of control during a time when many cancer patients feel like they have none and are filled with uncertainties. With art, you can control the what, where, when, and who. You have complete authority over what medium you want to use (painting, drawing, etc.), where and when you want to create it (a quiet corner of your home, perhaps listening to music), and you also decide who will use it. sees. Unlike most cancer trips, with art you are in control.

Using art as therapy has helped me discover my own emotions and calm my anxieties. Creative art can be a powerful tool in the personal care and mental health arsenal and the best part is anyone can do it. Go to the dollar store and buy an adult coloring book, go to an art supply store and buy paintings, use your phone to create great photographs, the possibilities are endless, and HOPE is just that. a brush stroke or a pencil scribble. .

Interested in learning more about art as therapy? Cactus Cancer Society (formerly Lacuna Loft) helps young adult patients, survivors and caregivers discover support and community. Discover their art workshops HERE (https://cactuscancer.org/programs/creative-art-workshops/)


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