Arts and Medicine

A cancer diagnosis is likely to evoke many emotions: uncertainty, confusion, and helplessness. Thanks to you, a provincial program is giving patients and families a respite from their disease—through art.

Brought to cancer patients by you, Alberta’s Healing Arts program offers stress relief, joy and a new focus to patients and families at various stages of the cancer journey.

After hearing the words “you have cancer,” Carmel Gatt found himself unable to cope with the new reality of his disease.

Gatt turned to painting through the Healing Arts program at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and found comfort.

"There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with a cancer diagnosis. This opportunity to make the painting gave me a purpose. Here was a painting with hope at the heart."

- Carmel Gatt, Cancer Patient

The Healing Arts program helps patients and families find creative expression to confront the many complex feelings that come with a diagnosis of cancer. Programs available include art therapy, expressive and spontaneous painting, hand drumming, laughter yoga, origami making and other creative outlets. The program in Calgary has been running for almost two years and was adapted from the healing arts program based out of the Cross Cancer Institute that has been successfully helping patients and families for over 20 years.

Corinna Spaziani and her two young daughters were introduced to the program in Edmonton while her husband was going through a devastating cancer diagnosis. She says the program help her deal with her emotions and her daughters when her husband passed away.

“Letting my children escape from the reality and play and create. It’s a safe zone for them,” says Spaziani. “It was an unexpected world that they found themselves in, and this is like a safety net of reassurance, and it would be okay and we would try to work through it.”

Marie Butler, who is an expressive arts therapist at the Cross Cancer Institute says that Arts in Medicine is meant to offer stress relief and a sense of joy, vitality and purpose to patients and families at various stages of the cancer journey.

"People learn that there is much more to themselves than they may be aware of. It gives patients the ability to not suppress their emotions because it can be a very overwhelming time and we give them an outlet."

- Marie Butler, Expressive Arts Therapist

Participants are provided with creative materials, instruction in the art form being used, thought provoking meditations, a safe and encouraging environment, and opportunities for conversation and reflection.

“One of the most significant benefits is that they are meeting one another. Cancer is a very isolating illness treatment renders people exhausted and sick” add Butler. “They build friendships with one another and it’s a place they can just be themselves and they don’t have to put on any kind of mask for the outside world”

Improving care and quality of life for cancer patients and families is the core of everything we do. Your investment helped make sure healing arts is available to patients and families across Alberta.


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