June is National Cancer Survivor Month, a time to recognize and honor those who have overcome adversity and are embracing life after cancer. Challenges cancer survivors face can include physical, emotional and social setbacks that result from their diagnosis and treatment.
"Patients who attend our support group find real connections and friends," says Marlene Wendel, a clinical social worker at Sharp Memorial Hospital and Cancer and the Arts instructor. "They are able to process their cancer journey, connect with others, and show their vulnerability in a way they may not be able to do in their everyday life."
To celebrate National Cancer Survivor Month and raise awareness about cancer, patients in the group created an art piece to share their personal reflections about the "truths of cancer."
Using pens and paper, patients wrote down words of wisdom, "When it feels like cancer is in charge of everything, you can still take back control of your life."; provided words of encouragement, "Deep breaths and a focus on gratitude helps ease fear and anger, and keeps my heart full."; and offered words of inspiration, "Cancer can bring gifts — love, patience, forgiveness, help and friendship."
The finished cards were hung from a wire attached to a frame, and displayed in the Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion lobby in June.
Wendel felt this project would help people viewing the piece to gain a better understanding of the cancer experience.
"Sometimes cancer gets incredibly real and uncensored; it can be rough, it can be beautiful, it can be all kinds of things," says Wendel. "I really wanted to give patients in the support group a voice and sense of empowerment to tell their truths."
Heather Terry Holt, who has breast cancer, attends the support group to help her through her cancer journey.
"This has been incredibly therapeutic for me," Holt says about the art project. "I created a bright, colorful piece of art that I hope will brighten people's moods."
David Pearson, a prostate cancer survivor, says he has found drawing to be healing during his recovery. "I've been able to let my mind go and let my story inside take form in my art," he says.
Patients interested in participating in other art projects can attend Cancer and the Arts, a free class held the fourth Friday of every month at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion. Registration is required.