lagrangenews.com

Healing through art

By Melanie Ruberti mruberti@civitasmedia

May 29, 2014

It’s been said that art is good for the soul. Ask some of the ladies at the Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic at West Georgia Health, and they would tend to agree.


For two hours each week, the women let their guards down, pick their paint brushes up, and let their creative juices flow. Or tears, if they’re having a particularly hard week. All the women have cancer… and all of them are survivors.


“You know your not in it alone,” said Sheila Hornsby, a six-year cancer survivor. “Family doesn’t always know what you’re going through. It [the class] is therapy. Sometimes information the doctors don’t give us, we find out here.”


As Sheila and the other ladies put it, they’re part of a sisterhood. The common bond being cancer and art.


Fran Griffin was diagnosed with cancer in November, and said it was a devastating time in her life. She started coming to art classes in March. She said it was the first time she had ever picked up a paint brush. Now, she can’t put it down.


“I’ve been coming here three months, and I’ve only missed one class,” she said. “Everyone is very supportive. We share everything. It’s been wonderful therapy for me.”


Fellow cancer survivor, Nadine Ryan agreed. “Some days, you don’t feel like getting out of bed,” she said. “But when it’s class day, you want to take a bath and go to class! It’s a blessing that the hospital provides this. These are my friends,” she added. “They encourage me to keep going. They love me.”


That sense of belonging and healing is the ultimate goal for the art therapy program. Mary Ann Hodnett is the Secretary for Oncology Services at the Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic and a volunteer in the art class. She is also a three-year breast cancer survivor.


“It gives them a safe place to come where they don’t feel different,” she said. “They can talk to people going through similar symptoms and issues. They can come and not be judged …. they don’t have to explain themselves.”


Hodnett said the lead artist and all the supplies are donated. The cancer survivors and their caregivers work on paintings, create greeting cards, paint and decorate wooden ribbons, life-sized torsos made with gauze and starch, flower pots, and more. Hodnett said some of the survivors suffer from neuropathy in their hands, so they don’t do anything tedious and usually finish projects within a day. Sometimes the survivors take their art home, sometimes it’s put on display around the county at various events.


“It [the class] makes us feel better when we go home,” said Nadine. “It’s relaxing and it makes us feel special.”


Nadine said she plans on coming to the art therapy classes as long as they’re available, not just to paint, but to fellowship with her “sisters.”


The Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic Art Therapy class is open to all cancer patients and their caregivers: men, women, and children, and is free of charge. For more information on the classes, call Mary Ann Hodnett at 706-812-2191 or email her at hodnettma@wghealth.org. You can also look on their Facebook page.