“When I come to the hospital for an appointment, I leave the doctor’s office with nothing. I have no idea what the diagnosis will be, or when I know, if I will live. I’m not me, I’m nobody, I am my illness. I’m nothing. Then I see the artwork and I walk down the gallery. I start to feel again…I am back. I am myself again. I have an identity, I have a life. That’s what your galleries do for me. I want you to know what they have meant for me.” (An oncology patient at U. of Michigan)
“This isn’t about using art or music to evoke emotion and solve problems, it’s about enjoying the creative process…It allows patients to have some choices and control over an aspect of their hospital stay, and helps empower them to be responsible for their own healing.” (Executive Director of Friends of University Hospitals, Alberta, Canada)
(above pictures are first time paintings for participants)
“I see healing and art as one. They are two sides of the split between the rational and the intuitive…I see healing and art as an expanding sphere…for both the healer and the artist, art heals in the same way images held in the brain stimulates the hypothalamus and the autonomic nervous system…art changes our nervous system, our brain waves, our immune state, and the neurotransmitters.” (Dr. Michael Samuels, Arts in Healthcare Symposium)
“The arts have an extraordinary ability to enhance our lives, to help us heal and to bring us comfort in times of great stress. We must reconnect the arts with the actual human existence that Americans lead, the journeys we take in life, whhich leads us through hospitals, to hospices, to the end of life.” (Dana Gioia, NEA Chairman, 2003)
“The arts optimize patient care and can create a strategic business advantage by differentiating themselves from competitors, and effectively garner support for starting and maintaining art programs.” (Blair Sadler, former President & CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital & Health Center, San Diego)
“When you’re treating advanced breast cancer, you’re not looking for a cure, you’re looking for stability and quality of life.” (Patient being treated at Vassar’s Dyson Center for Cancer, Poughkeepsie Journal)
“Making art has been of great help to me in my cancer/life journey. It is always interesting to see new members come to the art class for the first time and proclaim they have no art talent. Nonverbal expression is just as valuable, and some times more so to those of us who don’t have the words to express our feelings in processing life.” (Written in email to Marti Hand, RN, Artist, advocate for creativity and the arts in healthcare)
The story below is rather long…but I feel this patient’s story sums up the intangible benefits the arts and engaging in the creative process plays in health maintenance, recovery, spiritual and physical healing, and general well-being:
“I was sick with Hodgkin’s disease and my lungs filled with water. I felt I was drowning; I was terrified. I had come up against something that was so huge that I felt totally overwhelmed. I was so angry and so sick. I refused to get out of bed. I thought I was going to die. An Arts in Medicine (AIM) artist came into my room and asked me if I would like to paint. I refused. I had never made art before but the idea of painting enthralled me. Immediately my pain and fear lessened. I began to paint every day while I was in the hospital having a bone marrow transplant. Then painting became the most important thing to me every day. All the paintings I made had water in it. The water had to do with my fear of drowning. About the tenth painting, I painted a bridge between two islands. When I saw it, I gasped. Immediately, some sort of calm poured in and for the first time, I knew I was not going to die.
At that I would say that a shift happened where I moved out of my own fear and pain into a place where I felt serenity begin for me because I didn’t have the fear anymore. I became open and I knew the bridge in my painting would take me over to the other side, and I believed for the first time I could get well. I experienced a realization from my painting and trusted myself.
The painting was a message from inside – now I believed I would heal. I kept painting every day with more intense interest. I began to share my paintings with the hospital staff and hung my paintings in my room. As I painted, I felt buzzing energy in my body and I was so excited about each painting. Everyone was so responsive and I had something to talk to people about. I felt myself intensely alive and felt a sense of well-being and inner strength that I had not felt before.
I painted seventy-four paintings in all. In the last paintings, I painted the sky filled with birds, airplanes, and rockets. I could fly over the water now; I was free. Art changed by life. I am out of the hospital now and I believe I am cured. My paintings hang in my home. I am so thankful for art in healing in my life.” (Billy. Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD. Spirit body healing-a hermeneutic, phenomenological study examing the lived experience of art and healing. Cancer Nursing July-Aug 2005; 28(4):285-91.
“I amazed myself by becoming more free and creative than I thought I was. Somehow I was able to step away from ‘myself’ “. Cancer survivor in a Creativity Workshop in metro Atlanta cancer center. (Written on post evaluation questionaire to Marti Hand, RN, artist, advocate for creativity in healthcare).
Boredom of seemingly endless hours of chemotherapy is almost as bad as the accompanying nausea and weakness, according to one nurse diagnosed with cancer. “I couldn’t stand just sitting there doing nothing for hours on end…it was horrible.” She took comfort with string and hook – crocheting afghan squares. For this nurse, crocheting gave her a sense of normalcy, “I had something productive to do again, and when I got caught up manipulating the yarn, I could forget where I was and what I was really doing there.” As her chemotherapy went on, her pile of afghan squares grew larger and she began feeling better. “As the blanket got bigger, I got stronger…the chemo was doing its work and I was doing mine.” (Nurse undergoing chemotherapy in Hatboro, PA. Interweave Spring 2008; 13(1):24.