Virgil reached out to us a couple months ago about sharing his experience with cancer and art on our blog, and the research he did to help in his own recovery.
The idea resonated immediately – especially since I had recently written a post in our Mastering Oil Painting Facebook Group (a private group for members of our art training) that spoke of members who are or have suffered from cancer.
I believe art is given to us by a loving Father in Heaven to uplift and strengthen us, to make the world an increasingly beautiful place.
Here is what I wrote back in September of last year following which you will find Virgil’s post. Virgil’s research is a wonderful testament to what many of us know instinctively!
‘A new member emailed me with some art materials questions and reminded me that we had met while in San Diego at the Plein Air Convention.
We got to know one another during one of the paint outs, and she told me the story of her cancer journey and how she was in remission and worried about how much effort to put into an art career when the cancer could come back at any time.
At the time I believe I told her I would just go for it. The cancer may or may not come back, but regardless, she might as well go forward with something she loves and she may just become a teacher and an inspiration for others as well.
In her email today she told me that the cancer has returned.This is part of what I wrote to her:
“I clearly remember meeting and talking with you. Welcome to the community! Hopefully you have joined the private Facebook group – you will love the other artists. It is a very supportive and encouraging community with some highly skilled artists involved as well as ‘I just picked up a brush yesterday’ beginners.
You will be in our family’s prayers. Keep pushing forward with faith and enjoy every minute! None of us really knows how long we have here, that’s why we need to have joy in the journey, long or short.”
We have well over 300 (now almost 500) members in this group and just as many circumstances. Some are dealing with natural disasters, others with health, financial, or family struggles.
There’s nothing easy about this mortal journey and we have no idea how long we have to enjoy it. My brother died at 28 in a car accident after hitting black ice on his way to deliver a crib for my other brother expecting a new baby. My beautiful niece died at 9 of a brain tumor.
Life for me doesn’t end here. I believe that the happy relationships with family and friends that we form will continue after this life. As much as I love painting and being an artist, the kindnesses we share and serving one another selflessly are the true monuments of a life well lived and will continue with us when we leave.
I don’t know what challenges you face in your lives. I do know that I am grateful for you and your generosity and encouragement toward one another in this group.
You are wonderful artists and people, and I feel it a great privilege to be involved in your journeys as artists.
I believe we make this world a more beautiful and joy filled place through our artwork and I hope that we will continue to help and support one another as we strive to grow our own skills and understanding as artists.
Be courageous, be dynamic, be a friend and follow the promptings of your heart as you go forward – you will accomplish amazing things.
And each of you will be in my prayers.’
I hope you enjoy this special guest from from Virgil –
Art Therapy and Cancer: Emerging Victorious From Treatment by Virgil A.
Every cancer patient has a different experience with their diagnoses and treatment. Some people are consistently optimistic during their journey, whereas other patients fall prey to depression and outright sadness. Doctors are constantly looking for alternative ways to improve patients’ experiences so that recovery isn’t a rough ride.
Art therapy has emerged as a functional tool during recovery. Let’s learn how this activity can shape the mind and lift the spirit.
Creating as an Individual or Within Groups
Researchers developed artistic therapies as alternative treatments for psychological problems associated with cancer-based treatments and recovery.
Patients begin with an individual session with a therapist. They’re asked to create any collage that they desire. At first, the patient may be hesitant. These therapies develop over time to include group sessions.
Group work allows survivors to meet and share with other patients. Seeing someone else who’s gone through the same ordeal is powerful. Between new friendships and artistic development, patients can thrive through recovery.
Expressing Difficult Feelings
Patients might find it difficult to talk about their feelings. Cancer-related ailments are complex and impact patients with varying degrees of emotions. Through artistic expression, patients are able to visualize their feelings on the canvas, reports City of Hope.
Feelings might be expressed through colors, brush styles on the canvas or created images. For some patients, there are no other outlets to truly bring these emotions to light. Many patients find the practice to be helpful and healing at the same time.
Regardless of whether the artistic endeavor was accomplished in an individual or group setting, the patients finally felt heard, states the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
With each image, patients have a conversational piece that allows them to talk about their emotions. Worries, fears, angers and other feelings that are pent up inside will now have a pathway. Other patients in the room have a chance to hear about these feelings that may strike a chord with them too.
Breaking the Worry Train
Dealing with any cancer type is a struggle. For some patients, they just want a reprieve from their worrying minds.
This wish is possible with the addition of artistic activity in their lives. They might begin to feel a creative craving every day or once a week. During their creativity period, there are no other thoughts in their minds. This alone helps the body to relax so that the patient can heal much faster than with constant worry on the mind.
Taking the Practice Home
Art therapy doesn’t have to remain in the hospital or other medical facility. Patients are encouraged to create images at home. In fact, being creative boosts their self-image and confidence well after any treatment has ended.
Scientists understand that artistic expression isn’t beneficial to just one type of ailment. Any cancer-based treatment can have these therapies applied to the patients. From breast cancers to mesothelioma, these ailments have a real solution with artistic expression.
The road ahead is a beautiful one with this skill enhancing patients’ lives.
The Benefits of Art Therapy
According to a recent article from Mesothelioma.net (credit: Virgil) –
Studies have shown that creative endeavors and art therapy can help cancer patients feel better. In one published paper, for instance, researchers at the National Institutes of Health analyzed several studies of art therapy to determine how this kind of therapy affects cancer patients. The studies included over 1,500 participants and the results were clear: art therapy helped these patients reduce anxiety, depression, and even physical pain.
The art therapy sessions also improved general quality of life in most of the patients. The review indicated that the emotional benefits lasted as long as the therapy program but that the impact on pain actually extended well after the therapy had concluded. There are many more specific benefits of art therapy that vary by individual:
- Increasing self-awareness
- Building self-esteem during a difficult time
- Providing comfort and a sense of camaraderie
- Decreasing stress and increasing relaxation
- Improving communication
- Expressing emotions that are difficult to talk about or put into words
- Building relationships with others
You can learn more about the benefits of art therapy or get additional help here: https://mesothelioma.net/benefits-art-therapy-cancer-patients/
You can also learn more about Mesothelioma here: https://mesothelioma.net/mesothelioma/