On quiet evenings you can often find me at my Javanese ceremonial table (one of my antique treasures collected from life in Indonesia) with a big jumble of beads spread out before me, threading, wiring and creating until many hours later I have created a one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery. And for those who know me, you know that collecting beads has been a passion since I was a young girl. Sometimes my creations are gifts for friends or family and sometimes they’re destined for my own jewellery box, but no matter who ends up wearing my piece, the act of creating is always cathartic for me. From poring over beads of every size, shape and colour and selecting just the right combination, to rhythmically stringing them in a row, (or manipulating them as it is called) the process is meditative and the end result is a tangible expression of me. Artists from the beginning of time have known the liberating, uplifting effects of creating. Finding and acting on inspiration can connect us to places deep within ourselves that we may never discover otherwise. It is in these innermost places that the possibility of emotional and spiritual healing lives.
Several years ago I co-authored a book with my dear friend, Dr. Marilyn Hundleby, called Cancer & the Art of Healing. The book is a kind of print exhibition of artistic endeavours created by people affected by cancer – patients, caregivers, health care professionals, parents and children – as part of the Arts as Medicine initiative which has been one of Marilyn’s great passions in life. The work featured in the book was brought to life through creative workshops, which brought together people affected by cancer with artists and psychologists, social workers or art therapists in a non-judgemental way to explore their own creativity and in doing so reflect on the extraordinary journey they are on. As participants paint, sketch, sculpt, sew or weave, they delve deep within and find resources, insights and awakenings that can bring spiritual and emotional comfort. Each artistic endeavour is accompanied by a journalled piece of writing, which often reveals metaphors in the art and inspires the desire to embrace life and move forward. Through the writing, participants often reveal new insights about their own unique situation and are often surprised at the wisdom, hope and resourcefulness that emerge from within.
If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of self discovery and personal creativity – do it! Even if it’s something you’ve never attempted, as my dear friend Marilyn would remind us, it’s important to stress that you do not have to be an artist to benefit from the act of creating. In fact, your ‘creation’ can take any form, whether it’s a meal you’ve prepared and the way you’ve set the table to serve it, a garden you’ve planted or a story or piece of poetry you’ve written. In fact, the healing power of writing is often what draws people to blogging. Cancer survivor Mary Quartarone discovered the liberating and healing power of dance shortly after she had a mastectomy as part of her treatment for breast cancer. She now offers free dance sessions for people living with cancer to experience creative movement to invigorate mind, body and spirit. The options for expressing yourself creatively are unlimited.
As you move along on your cancer journey, I encourage you to explore your own creative side, in whatever area appeals to you. Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent! I would love to hear the ways you have found for releasing your feelings throughout your diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Please email me at TheCancerJourney@cctfafoundation.ca.