Mobile Art Cart Helps Relieve Stress and Pain for Patients

art, integrative therapies, Heather Woods
Heather Woods brings Dana-Farber’s art studio to patients through the mobile art cart.

Pain, anxiety, fear: these are a few common feelings that may become particularly heightened after a cancer diagnosis and during treatment.

But a traveling mobile art cart, sponsored by the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, now offers Dana-Farber patients the ability to reduce pain or stress through expressive arts such as coloring, weaving, and card making.

Heather Woods, MT- BC, manager of Expressive Arts Therapies at the Zakim Center, who runs the mobile art cart program, says the cart can make the side effects of treatment a little more manageable for patients.

“Our goal is to bring creative opportunities directly to patients in these stressful moments so they can have a little break from their stress, have a better quality of life, and gain some new coping skills,” Woods says.

Every day, Woods or her intern travel to floors 6 to 8 of the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care with the small metal cart – stocked to the brim with mini adult coloring books, packs of colored pencils, flyers of events, and creative arts projects.

The mobile art cart travels to waiting and infusion areas to help patients pass the time before appointments and manage their stress, according to Woods.

“It’s a non-threatening way for people to explore themes that might be coming up in their life,” Woods explains.

The cart is an extension of the Open Arts Studio, a walk-in space in the Eleanor and Maxwell Blum Patient and Family Resource Center on the first floor of the Yawkey Center. The studio, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is home to all kinds of arts and crafts materials including yarn, paints, fabrics, and canvases. The studio also offers a regular workshop series, with fine art and craft-based instruction twice weekly for patients, caregivers, and staff.

creative arts, integrative therapies
Patient Annie Newby at the Creative Arts Studio.

Medical experts now view integrative therapies as an effective complement to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Studies show that expressive and other integrative therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, and yoga, help patients relieve stress, ease pain, and enhance quality of life. Woods says the mobile art cart just does that – making it all worthwhile for her.

“Offering a way for patients to smile and relax, when they are no doubt going through tremendous challenges, brings a lot of meaning to my work and to my life,” says Woods.