Art as Powerful Medicine
Whether you are rich or poor, life is hard and will always be a challenge. No one is exempt and no one gets out alive. There are no guarantees and plenty of times where hard work and diligence go unrewarded. And there are prices that get paid for the lessons learned.
Over the years I have cultivated a cornucopia of competitors and detractors who make life hard ... some of them in places you would never imagine ... like a cancer whose only usefulness is making me aware of just how blessed I am with artistic and athletic ability and how great a life I've lived with the people around me. Surely enough the cancer knows I'm watching them and shutters every time I give them a wink ;).
Several years ago my mother passed away after a long bout with cancer. I think there were several practical and even mundane reasons why she became ill. But one thing always puzzled me about how long she stayed alive with it and what it took to beat it back time and again with rounds of chemotherapy. My mom was a very strong person but she never was that interested in art and never saw the point to it even though as a kid I used to play with her old paint set that she had tucked away in the basement. I knew she dabbled in painting once upon a time but why didn't it stick? I couldn't be the only person who loved how the oil paint smelled right? So what motivates one to make art?
Clearly, just buying art materials isn't enough to make art. I remember looking at her old paint set and wondered 'what do you do with this stuff'? I had absolutely no idea what one did with the paint or the mediums or the brushes. Paint a picture? Of what? Why? The one thing that I did pick up on instantly was that there was something magical about her paint set. Like a keyhole in an old door where if you had the right skeleton key to unlock the door you would go to a whole new room of the house that you never knew existed before. Maybe it was like an old attic where you could peek through the keyhole but didn't know where the key was to gain entrance. You were so close.
To me cancer is like the door with the keyhole. Seemingly impenetrable, the door represents finality if you don't have the right key. It is the end of the line. But the door is both barricade and passageway - roadblock and entrance and there is nothing stopping you if you have the key. Within the duality is great opportunity. So the big question is what is the key and who has it?
Many cancer companies tout that they have the key to open the door to curing cancer. The stock market is full of companies with chemo therapies and the like all saying they hold the holy grail to extend your life. I don't think anyone really believes them but what are the options? Would you abandon a known treatment and have the courage to try something else? What happens if it doesn't work? Ultimately none of them work so what do you have to lose?
To me art is living. It is trans formative and I know it helps me get a good nights sleep (that is a fact for me ... I sleep better after I've painted and I make it a point to paint at least an hour before I go to bed.) But what if there was something more to that last statement? Can art actually make me sleep better? If so, can art have other benefits? Can making art make me a better person? Make me smarter? Even bigger question can art cure cancer? Preposterous - Absurd - Ludicrous ... ?
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer all she was looking for was something to beat it back or at least keep it in check to buy her more time to spend with her family. She was such a strong person I had no doubt she would beat it back time and again. I had confidence in her but how many times could she beat it back? Unfortunately, for Wall Street remission is the goal in treating cancer - not finding the cure for it. If there was a cure they would all be out of business. So if there was a method of treating cancer that was no less successful than Wall Street's success rate would that be worth trying out? Would it be worth it to even augment a chemotherapy treatment with art therapy?
From my experience, art is powerful medicine. It makes me happy when I am sad. Helps me sleep when I can't. Motivates me to push harder when I need the inspiration. Every once in a while it even makes me some money which then just goes back to me buying more materials and continuing being happy. Art is a win-win for me. And it doesn't matter to me if my art is 'good' or if people 'like' it on Facebook. Just having the chance to paint and make my work is enough. Am I a doctor, no, but I do know art is powerful medicine for me that works every time I use it. And you never know what you can do until you try.
This blog post was inspired by the website The Benefits of Art Therapy for Cancer Patients. If you have cancer or not it is worth the read. For more information about Mesothelioma cancer go to Mesothelioma Cancer | What is Malignant Mesothelioma.
This blog post is dedicated to my mom and to a person whom I have never met personally but who reached out to me and asked if I could share my thoughts about art, creativity and cancer. Several years have gone by since my mom passed but I think it was finally the right time for me to tackle the subject. Thank you Mom for all you did to raise me. I hope the strength, courage and determination in my work reflects the values you instilled in me from your old Allen Street neighborhood.
And thank you Virgil for reaching out to me to help spread the word about the benefits of art therapy. Best wishes and much strength on your journey.