Art Therapy Cancer Survivors at Cedars-Sinai
Beyond the Horizon, 2019
9" x 7"
marker, tulle, googley eyes on pressed paper
“I’m fine”. “Just tired”. Two phrases I catch myself often saying without being further questioned. I usually am just fine or just tired but I also typically struggle with not fully knowing what is “normal” given the context of my life versus it being a symptom or result of my “thyroid thing”. There are several components that could contribute to my low energy, fatigue, hair loss, or sweaty hands but I find it difficult to pinpoint the exact source. It makes it difficult to know whether these things are relevant to report to my doctor during my annual check up. Even though it’s almost been six years since receiving an official diagnosis and completing my treatment, my concerns about cancer haven’t gone away. Some of these thoughts are reflected on the inside of the mask. The mask serves as a reminder to not make assumptions about people, as you never really know what’s going on internally.
11" x 6.5" x 8"
tissue paper, glue, pipe cleaner, paper, tulle, yarn, fake eyelashes on styrofoam
I had a doctor once tell me that if he could choose to have any cancer he would choose to have Thyroid cancer. Not only did that doctor’s attempt to comfort me fail, but also it unintentionally minimized my experience. I’ve heard that people often refer to thyroid cancer as the “good cancer” because statistically, it is highly treatable/curable in comparison to other cancers. Not everyone’s cancer experiences are identical but overall; I think it’s probably safe to assume that all cancers suck. The different “hair types” or colored/textured yarns and pipe cleaners that lie delicately draped around the crown of the head symbolically represent the different kinds of cancer. There is no “one size fits all” treatment and recovery looks different for every cancer patient. However, the figurative weight that can come from receiving a cancer diagnosis may be the same. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can also be life changing for many of people. It certainly was for me and it has since remained a very relevant key component in my life’s story. I bear a daily reminder of my cancer experience along and across my neck, in the form of a scar, and I am fortunate enough to have the option to show or hide that part of me depending on the type of shirt I wear or how I choose to wear my hair. I often wonder when is it considered an appropriate time to share with others that I’ve had cancer? I’m curious how other people bring it up? Are there certain people one might choose not to tell? How do people usually respond if/after you tell them?
Tangled Threads, 2019/2020
"Tangled Threads of Lies and Truths"
One might not face the Concealing, Revealing, Sealing, or Healing of their lies and truths
Getting lost in the active murk and mire of deceit
Within its tangled threads
“Tangled Threads of Lies and Truths”
One might not be able to endure the dark-side
Drudgery, Gloom, Failure, Dullness, Lethargy, Futility, Paranoia, Aggravation
One might be able to endure the bright-side
Splendor, Sanguinity, Triumph, Brightness, Determination, Vigor, Valor and Solace
Tears of Healing, 2019
Tears Of Healing (Front)
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
People like to say You look pretty You look wonderful You look healthy
Often times They are afraid They’ll say the wrong thing Something that brings you down
Trying to encourage you They may make-things-up To make you feel better They mean well
You close your eyes You listen With a grateful heart But tears flow anyway
Look up Look Down What do you see? A bit of you, A bit of me, A bit of a memory?
Tears Of Healing (Back)
My mind’s eye Never sleeps Never rests It is wide-awake Constantly seeing
Many parts of me: The good, The bad, The ugly
It wonders what others see
Do they too see: My fears, nightmares, doubts, hopes, joy, humor, creativity? Do they see themselves in me?Do they see me in them?
Perhaps, this duel seeing, This double vision Can intertwine with The restless, sleepless eye The eye of the mind The one that never closes, Never stops fearing The other shoe might drop
Broken Open: Bold and Beautiful, 2019/2020
These dual head art pieces gave me the opportunity to share how I stay positive in an extroverted and introspective way. For my extroverted Styrofoam self, I used bold/positive words, colorful beads and bright lipstick to show you can stay positive living out loud and beautiful. For my introspective Styrofoam meditative self, I used bright overlapping colors around my head to represent quiet positive thoughts and the butterflies represent transformation. Together it gives me strength, hope and courage to live my life fully everyday.
Three Kisses, 2019
9" x 6" x 3.5"
mixed media on pre-existing book
My cancer narrative is a work in progress. Although the book has a natural stopping point, this narrative will continue on for the rest of my life. Pages aren’t likely to be taken out but pages can always be added in. As most stories do, my story contains both good and bad times but organizing it and putting it down on paper helped to give me a newfound sense of clarity and perspective. As time progresses, my cancer narrative has evolved beyond what it first started out as and it’s been interesting to reflect back on the moments that stood out during those times. I’m taken back to snapshots of my life before cancer. I reminisce that I am actually not that invincible teenager that I once thought myself to be. Thinking about my life post-cancer, it’s wild to think that I actually overcome one of the most mentally and physically challenging obstacles that could happen to someone during their lifetime.
The Cancer Train, 2019
9” x 6” x 8”
altered book, photography, oil sticks, collage
My process is to start with the concept of expressing an aspect of living with cancer while considering different media to tell the story.
The idea of a book fascinated me. The Cancer Train represents the beginning of the book. The rest of the story grows stronger through the sense of community and is supported by the collective expression of shared experience through art.
The cancer train is a different train. You never return to where you got on.
My feelings of terror and lack of trust have diminished. After knowing Dr. Asher, Dr. Linesch, and Dr. Metzl, I no longer fear trains.
Cancer Journey Booklet, 2020
11" x 14"
mixed media and digital
For my 50th birthday life gifted me with breastcancer and thus started a grueling journey of chemotherapy, multiples surgeries, radiation and pain. Thankfully the cancer was at an early stage but it was aggressive and so was my treatment. I am now a survivor. This journey brought me back to myself and taught me that cancer and pain are opportunities to transform how I view myself and the world. I realized that if I could change my inner-vision I could change my experience. I began to listen within more intently. Instead of looking at myself with the not being enough lens, I am choosing to be easier on myself, to value, appreciate and nurture myself, to give myself enough time to rest and heal, to take the time to discover who I am and what I want. I choose gratefulness and appreciation. I know that all that matters is love and growth. That’s what life is about. I choose to trust that it will all be ok. I realize how beautiful life is. Hurt, pain, fight, transformation, life, joy, love are all part of the now. They make life’s beautiful fabric. Life needs to be lived now, with all of its parts.
9” x 6” x 3.5”
Who Am I No Really...Who?, 2019/2020
mixed media, artist's own writings and paintings
Text from Artist's Dedication Page
Laurel Welcome is a published author and artist. Her involvement and commitment to the success of the “Expressive Arts Workshop,” is because she believes in freeing the voice. She has experienced from childhood how the voice is tragically, silenced, either through the demands of others, self-imposition and/or by various health issues.
The “Expressive Arts Workshop,” workshop was Inspired and Created by Dr. Arash AsherMD Directed and Facilitated by Dr. Debra Linesch, Ph.D, LMFT, ATR-BC and Coordinated by Bin McLauren.PSR2 It also included Exhibition Designers, Reina Bicciche and Andrea Verano.
It is a break-free moment in time, wherein all participants voices are being heard and documented via several art projects created during this, “Expressive Arts Workshop,” which ran from October through March 2020.
All of the participants, involved in this workshop, enjoyed a non-pressured, art experience and comradeship. In the end when it turned into a possible public art event the excitement grew amongst the participants not only to have their work publicly shared but more importantly all hoped it would help inspire new and participating investors to continue or contribute anew in order to help maintain on-going, workshops such as the “Expressive Arts Workshop.” The positive results were exceptional and a blessing.
Dr. Asher’s compassion for Cedar’s patients is unsurpassed and well known by any of us who have attended anyone of his several healing workshops. He is well loved and deeply respected. He is hell bent on wanting cancer patients, especially, to heal with honor, self-respect and in good health. That is why he has continually invested and dedicated his time in developing and maintaining these gifted workshops, tailored for patients’ well-being and care.
Dr. Debra Linesch, a compassionate, loving leader has accomplished a great deal running this particular art therapy workshop, as well as, having turned it into a public art event for the participants. There is create support for Dr. Linesch to continue on running this workshop. It met with great success as it encouraged cancer patients to be able to look beyond their plight by enjoying a weekly release from their health concerns, while interacting with others and sharing a safe creative space. The positive energy amongst the participants was a way that could help heal the mind, body and spirt by outwardly engaging and expressing emotional, intellectual, and creative needs.
This workshop created an opportunity to take on a new perspective, temporarily putting side our cancer fears, while enjoying the creativity and intellectual stimuli from our fellow contributors. The fun and camaraderie that ensued created strong friendships.
Big Feels, 2019
3" x 4" x 2"
tissue paper, marker, paper, ribbon, pom-poms, googley eyes on wood
At an early age, I developed the habit of keeping my feelings to myself and bottling them up until I couldn’t hold them in any longer. It feels silly to even write that out but I have a much deeper understanding and awareness of this pattern now. It’s a delicate dance, in which, I am trying to improve upon. Even with this increased awareness, I still wonder if some things are better felt than said aloud? This idea was brought to life by leaving the wooden box open with some of my “paper thoughts” beginning to flow outwards. I am still constantly learning new things about this little butterfly shaped gland and I am by no means a thyroid expert but I know that by sharing my cancer story and experiences with others I can empower and encourage awareness, advocacy, and growth about thyroid cancer and thyroid-related complications/conditions.
Broken Open: Live Outside the Box, 2019/2020
3" x 4" x 2" (each)
These two boxes gave me the opportunity to show my every day life versus a life full of adventure. The plain box represents my old life. Doing the same things day in and day out. It lacked adventure, laughter, creativity and happiness. I was not living my full purpose so my soul hurt. The colorful box represents living "Outside the Box" of societies rules and regulations. The new me is full of adventure, love, happiness, creativity and inner peace. I now follow my souls purpose and intuition. This is the happiest and healthiest I have ever been.
Shine Through, 2019
12" x 10"
watercolor and marker on fabric
I want to shine through but some days I feel like I cannot. Since receiving a cancer diagnosis I’ve had to re-evaluate my relationship with my body. Some days, I’ll admit, I wonder what it would it be like to trade out my body for a new one? Would I miss the one I originally had? Would it still feel like such an effort to take care of myself? It’s a complicated relationship that requires continual attunement, readjustment, care, compassion, patience, and gratitude. Some days, regardless of deadlines I may have or plans I may have scheduled weeks in advance, I have to go against what my mind wants and tune into what my body needs. My mind and body are in constant dialogue with each other even when I don’t always have the time to listen.
Welcome to My Art Studio, 2019/2020
RING THIS BELL
This bell of freedom
Let us sit and chat
Let me hear and see you
We are after all the same
Filled with frailties
Fears, doubts, despairs
Hopes, dreams, love
Come, sit and share
Do you see me now?
Do you hear me now?
Let me see you Let me hear you
Let’s share Can you see me in you?
Can you see you in me?
I am a blank canvas
Ready to embrace life, anew
Let me write you a story
Let me paint you a picture Let me . . . be free . . . to just do
Since my first breast cancer diagnosis in September 2011, I’ve felt my voice disappearing. With women around a table, creating, it may come back. Thank you for helping us repair. I’ve had three breast cancers, five years apart. The most devastating has been the initial diagnosis: bi-lateral breast cancer. double lumpectomy. bi-lateral (localized, catheterized) radiation. nipple sparing surgery. double mastectomy. expanders. reconstruction. fat grafting surgeries (4). physical therapy (lots). I endured the second list of procedures to make the prodding, imaging and the terror stop. It hasn’t stopped. Repair is born out of the idea of (little or) no choice.
Doll’s Felted Home, 2020
12" x 18" x 7"
watercolor and assemblage of items on muslin doll, oil pastels on wooden chair, tape and felt on shoebox
When cancer came into my body and my “home”, a lack of control, feelings of mess, and unknowns abounded resulting in many overwhelming moments. The journey will continue but so far has included times of weeping pouring out (teardrop on face; shadows), times where the only focus and thought was the treatment with the rest of my body and life on hold (color on the doll not going to the end of the body), times where I wanted to disappear (backside of body is unpainted), and times of trying to learn this new cancer language (puzzle piece). Parts of my body will be scarred and marked for the rest of my life and some future plans are now questionable. During this journey, I was grateful to have people and my faith as a wonderful source of support (the colorful chair). And the art itself has provided a great way to process this journey and have some control through it. Creating this artwork reminded me that things may come into my life that try to disrupt, but I have a “home” where I feel felt (the home lined with felt), understood, and loved.
Cancer Baggage, 2019/2020
Button on the ear for my mastoid. Cherry down below for my hysterectomy. Red coil for my open heart surgery. Puzzle piece for my lung cancer. Daisy for the tumor on my kidney. The seven dots that you can't see are the 7 radiations that I had..The one wing still let's me fly and soar . The suitcase represents the baggage that we accumulate from life. I call my doll the HEALTHIEST GIRL ON THE PLANET
Artists Make Art
The Imagery of Art Therapists Impacted by Cancer