Post Cancer and Art Therapy

After my five months of treatment I was considered in remission. My scans were completely clear which meant not only were the tumors gone, but the bones (which were swiss cheese on the initial mri) were regrown. I stumped the surgeons at my oncology center, “as the medicine wasnt supposed to work like that”.

While in march i will be 3 years in remission, NHL is technically still in my system, and could potentially come back at any time.  Im keeping positive though that it will remain hidden till im old, grey and have outlived everyone i know in spite of my medical history.

Six months after my remission declaration, I went back to school and graduated with a BA in studio art minoring in psychology. I have many thanks to give for the help of my art advisor, and teachers for the extra office hours they sat through helping me adjust back to classes after treatment. I also had good friend on campus who spent many nights helping me study, go through articles and edited all my paper rough drafts for the semester.

The chemo brain was one of my longest standing side effects; While the chemo doesnt technically travel into the brain, (as my aunt explained to me–>) it does affect other cells, which go through the lungs (disrupts the oxygen) and travels throughout the body including the brain. Its a very strong haze of confusion, like walking through a grey curtain and while hearing everything, not completely understanding or hearing anything quite right. The confusion was unbearable most days, other days I was in such a daze it didnt bother me, very few days were clear.

That five months flew by like a blur for me. But I can assume it was a lifetime for people around me. about a month or so after my last treatment my fog started to clear, by September I felt like I was clear enough for a full schedule but I realised soon after I was wrong.

I found that I needed to take naps and spend long hours in the library with my friend to keep up with the homework. ( I bought pizza and or dinner at least once a week all semester as payment for all the help my friend gave me between her busy schedule ). My “new normal” was definitly an adjustment. I was used to being busy, and now I had to take it easy, a lot.

In 2011 I started my masters degree in art therapy and mental health counseling.  I have always felt that creating art was healing, mostly stress relieving.  However my specific training in art therapy, has further proven how right it is.

Through these courses and my own personal counseling I have finally been able to process my feelings about my experience with cancer, as opposed to just calling it a name for my pain.