Coping With Cancer Through Creative Expression

A cancer diagnosis brings more than physical challenges. Patients and loved ones must also manage the emotional toll that can come with it. Storytelling, through word, pictures or other creative expression, can be an effective way to deal with these emotions and help with the healing process.

Some people look to painting or writing, while others may cope through dance, music, or a tattoo.

We want you to share your story with us. Whether it’s a piece of artwork, a blog post, or a small tattoo on your wrist – show us how you coped with a cancer diagnosis. Submit your images and stories to our “Coping with Cancer Through Creative Expression” gallery.

Here are a few patients who have found creative ways to cope with their diagnosis:

Jen Fox

Jen Fox's Hodgkin lymphoma ribbon and "still the optimist" tattoos on her wrist
Jen Fox’s Hodgkin lymphoma ribbon and “still the optimist” tattoos on her wrist

“Still the optimist” was already tattooed on Fox’s wrist when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011. She added a violet ribbon – a symbol for Hodgkin’s – next to the phrase. Fox, 22, says tattoos are a way for her to embrace her battle with cancer and empower her to keep fighting.

After a relapse in 2012 and a stem cell transplant in 2013, Fox got a tattoo of a Jimmy Fund donation box at Fenway, with a Boston “B” in the middle of a heart. It is a tribute to the care she received at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, and the Red Sox players who would visit her while she was in treatment.

“2013 was hands down the hardest year of my life, but in the end I got to watch my favorite team win the World Series,” Fox says. “It meant a lot to me, and I feel like this tattoo is the perfect way to preserve my gratitude and love for both the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund.”

Fox with her Jimmy Fund/Red Sox tattoo, next to the 2013 World Series trophy
Fox with her Jimmy Fund/Red Sox tattoo, next to the 2013 World Series trophy

Bill O’Halloran

Bill O'Halloran
Bill O’Halloran

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in July 2011, O’Halloran started a blog as a resource for family and friends looking for information on his progress. Before long, he discovered a love for writing.

“The blog has served as a journal for me to document my progress and as a reference for summarizing important medical information of interest,” O’Halloran says. “But more importantly, it has served as a vehicle for me to connect with others in the multiple myeloma community, and it has been helpful to be able to share experiences and insights with others from a patient’s perspective.”

Lola Baltzell

Lola Baltzell

When Baltzell was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in August 2008, she turned to her artwork. Baltzell developed the collaborative War and Peace Project, a collage of all 747 pages of Tolstoy’s classic novel that has been shown in Boston, New York, and Moscow.

The first collage in Baltzell's War and Peace Project
The last collage in Baltzell’s War and Peace Project

“Art-making has played a huge role in my healing and in creating a greater sense of joy and purpose in my life. I had already been a practicing artist for about 15 years, but once the diagnosis came, art felt even more essential to my sense of wholeness,” Baltzell says. “This project connected me with so many wonderful people and continues to be a source of inspiration to others.”

3 thoughts on “Coping With Cancer Through Creative Expression”

  1. I’m a writer of comedies and I fervently believe in the healing power of laughter. That’s why I wrote ‘The MOMologues: Pink Ribbon Overdose’ with two other breast cancer survivors – Pam Ahl and Jane McGovern. It offer thetrue tales of what it means to go through treatment, in a way we hope is funny and sometimes poignant. We have been lucky enough to have it performed twice to sold out audiences of those in treatment, survivors and their families and friends.

  2. Please visit my website to learn about my soon to be released this spring third novel, Surrender Flash, which is based on my battle with endometrial cancer and treatment. There is a book jacket with cover and description, and info about my other 2 novels with pictures (before cancer happened.) I will be updating the site with more recent picture and more info soon.

  3. This idea of self-expression to deal with living with cancer can be a helpful idea to many who are suffering with the disease.

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