Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Ant and the Cheese

Two months after I was diagnosed with cancer I registered for an art therapy group that would meet once a week at the Breast Cancer Centre for Hope.  Angelique and Nadalene really encouraged me to attend this and I am really glad I did.

It was at art therapy that I met the only other lady I know that has Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  When I stated that I had IBC, Pat touched my arm and said that she had it too and that she was alive five years after diagnosis and that I could live longer than six months.  Pat has since become a very dear friend and I love her courage and enthusiasm.  Pat, you may never know how much you encouraged me that day and on the days since.

The session lasted about 1 1/2 hours and started with us all sitting in a circle (about 10 people).   The therapist would tell us what we would do that day and then we would work on it for about 45 minutes and then we would meet back in the circle and discuss what our work meant to us.  We were discouraged from talking while doing the work which was great because I always felt like I was alone and I was right into my project.

Flashback - April, 2006

Our first assignment was to do a collage.  Tanis, the therapist, had set up tables with different pictures torn from magazines covering the tables.  We were told to pick up any pictures that we had a reaction to and then make a collage.

The following are descriptions of my pictures and what meaning they had for me.

The Word Caught = I felt caught.

Robot Man on the Moon with the word Science = I depend on science to live.

Five Hearts = Wahid, Me, Angelique, Nadalene and Nathan.

Home Sweet Home = My family life.

The Number 49 = I was 49 years old when I was diagnosed.

A Lady Favoring Her Left Breast = My left breast is my healthy one.

The Word Play = Because I forget how too.

Sphere = My mind.

A Jug of Water = Because I have to drink it all the time and it makes me gag.

A Woman With Many Faces = The many fronts/faces I wear.

Sheep = I feel like a sheep being led to the slaughter.

Prison Bars = I feel trapped.

The Word Stroke = I wish I would have had a stroke and died then it would be easier for me and my family.

A Head With Another Head Growing Out of the Back of the Skull With a Screaming Face = I have to be careful that I don't let my mind go crazy.

The Word Watch = I need to watch.

An Older Lady With Her Face in Her Hands Looking Defeated = How I sometimes feel inside.

A Man in a Bed Holding on to His Back = Cancer in my bones causing a sore back.

A Ticket Dispenser With a Red Cross on It = Blood transfusions.

A Traveller Being Followed by a Crocodile = Just reminded me of a book or paper I have.

Cartoon of a Woman Dressed for Outdoors With the Reflection of a Man in a Mirror = I felt the woman is looking out at darkness and the man in the mirror represented my cancer outside, only it is inside because his reflection is in the mirror.

Snowflake = Because I love Christmas.

The Word Family = My family.

Five Stick Figures = Wahid, Me, Angelique, Nadalene, and Nathan.

A Life Machine Graph = Up and down, just like I feel.

Two Ants and One is Carrying a Long Piece of Cheese = The ant is doing the impossible carrying how many times its weight with the cheese; if the load gets too heavy the other ant can help.  It reminded me that the impossible can be done and I have a lot of support.  I am not alone, even though I have to carry the weight alone.

When we all gathered in a circle to show our work and to discuss it, I realized I was in a room of talented people.  My work all throughout art therapy was childish in appearance.  The work, however, touched my core.  After we sat, and others discussed their work and what the pictures meant to them, it was my turn.

I was extremely emotional.  And I mean EXTREMELY emotional.  I could barely string two words together.  I was sobbing like my heart was broken.  My heart was broken.

I came home and showed my family and each time I showed someone I was bawling like a baby.  It was great.  

I had never reached my emotions before in a visual way.  It has always been with words.  I honestly can't say enough about how helpful it was to me.  I now understand why they have art therapists who work with children from war-torn countries.  You need to get these feelings out.

Even though I know that this was just over two months after my initial diagnosis when I attended art therapy and that I was an emotional wreck, I believe that it did wonders for me.

I need to revisit art.


Bella Sinclair said...

Renee, I loved reading this. I'm so thankful art therapy was cathartic for you. My high school art teacher told me I should become an art therapist. I wish I had listened.

I had this art assignment once. We had to create masks that represented ourselves. So I paper mached this balloon to make it a helmet of sorts and spray painted it to look like granite. And there was this hole in the granite with lots of colors and stars and wires shooting out. It was supposed to represent me as a very reserved, constrained person, but inside there is this passion just waiting to burst out. When it came time for me to talk about it, I burst out in tears. So I understand how art can touch you to the core and release you. It can be such a powerful tool.

On a lighter note.... Whenever I see the word 'therapist,' I can't help but remember this skit from Saturday Night Live. It was celebrity Jeopardy, and Sean Connery (impersonated by one of the actors) was one of the contestants. One of the categories was "Therapists," and whenever Sean Connery chose that category, he would say in that distinguished Scottish accent, "Alex, The Rapists for $600."

Have a wonderful night, love.

Deborah said...

I just want to put my arms around you.