Making new memories through photography

New program offers portrait photography to Cancer Center patients


Joe Bushkuhl

Photographs contain memories and provide opportunities to tell our stories and connect to our feelings. For cancer patients and cancer survivors, these feelings can become part of the healing process. A new photography program at the Cancer Center, “Life Images of Today and Tomorrow,” provides a unique opportunity for patients and families to have portraits taken by a professional photographer and to make new memories in the process.

“Life Images of Today and Tomorrow” is a partnership with the Washtenaw Community College Photography Program that is offered at no cost to patients and their families. Professors and students from WCC provide portrait services in a studio at the Cancer Center. At session’s end, patients receive flash drives for printing, along with informative tools about the meaning of photographs and suggestions for photography creations. The Cancer Center Art Therapy program hosts periodic follow-up workshops for those interested in creating art with the images and sharing stories in a supportive environment.

Joe’s story

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Create a Hero Garden

Let your child's imagination come alive with his or her own interactive garden!

An interactive garden like the “Hero Gardens” we built with children in our Siblings Program at Mott Children’s Hospital is a great activity to try at home with your kids because it provides plenty of imaginative fun, and you probably already have most of what you need in your home or yard already!  These gardens are simple and quick to make, but can bring hours of enjoyment over the summer, as your child changes and adds to his or her garden to reflect different things you do, explore and learn together over the summer.

Check out our “how to” video, and let us know how it works for you!  We would love to see pictures of your own “Hero Garden” – you are welcome to post them to our Facebook wall, or tag #mottchildren in any photos you share on Instagram or Twitter.

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Healing colors for physical and emotional well-being

She always wears some blue clothing or jewelry. When she makes art, it usually includes blue in the images. If you ask her what her favorite color is, she will say BLUE. This color comforts her, and she likes to have it close by.healingcolors250x250

The same woman is being treated for cancer and finds that art therapy is beneficial – it calms her and helps her to discuss difficult subjects like cancer and childhood memories. The use of color is infused in most of her drawings, except for ones that are too emotional and for those she simply uses a pencil.

Do colors have healing properties? 

There are a number of studies that suggest that they do. Ayurvedic medicine (originating on the Indian subcontinent and now practiced as a form of complementary medicine) uses the energies infused in the colors of the rainbow to restore balance and wellness within an individual. Color therapy, also known as Chromatherapy, is based on the same premise. Architects choose colors for hospital settings based on research that says colors impact how people respond to time spent in a particular space like a clinic wait room or hospital room. Continue reading

Art of the Heart – New Voices Art Gallery Show Now Open

After a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, Jennifer Kelley’s experience with cancer has been one of struggle and growth.

Kelley, a patient at the Cancer Center, created a crocheted felt art piece, featuring two hearts that she says signify the growth she’s experienced through treatment. Together, the hearts represent a shedding of her old self and an acceptance of her new self.

“My piece is about me evolving with my body,” she says. “I’m proud of what I’ve created and it makes me feel good.”

Kelley’s piece is one of more than 50 that will be featured in the new “Art from the Heart” exhibit hosted by the Cancer Center’s Voices Art Gallery. The gallery will hold a reception for the exhibit from 4-6:30 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2012.

Maraget Nowak, the Cancer Center’s art therapist and exhibit creator, said she chose the heart theme because it resonates with everyone and means something different to each artist. The collection has a wide array of meaning and messages, Nowak says, with some pieces conveying hope and strength, and others symbolizing remembrance or struggle.

“The symbol of the heart, it shows up a lot in everyday life,” she says. “Your heart is what keeps you going, and it’s an image that everyone can relate to.”

The exhibit features more than 50 multimedia pieces from 26 artists, who include Cancer Center patients, staff, caregivers and volunteers. Nowak said this is the most participation she’s seen for a group exhibit.

The exhibit will be open until November.

Exhibit Reception Information:

Time: 4:30-6 p.m.

Date: Monday, Sept. 10

Location: Voices Art Gallery, in the U-M Cancer Center, Level B1, near the Outpatient Pharmacy

Creative Control: Art therapy offers artistic freedom and empowerment to people with cancer

Art therapy offers artistic freedom and empowerment to people with cancer

"There are a lot of things going on outside of a patient's control, and although my doctors give me choices once in a while, they're the ones who know the right way. Art therapy is a great environment to make my own decisions." -- Linda Westervelt (pictured)

Linda Westervelt enjoys making her own choices. Too often as a cancer patient, however, she has to leave decisions about her treatment and health in the hands of her doctors.

But when Westervelt participates in the art therapy program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, she’s in control.

“It’s nice to make decisions in art therapy, and it’s a good outlet for that,” Westervelt says. “There are a lot of things going on outside of a patient’s control, and although my doctors give me choices once in a while, they’re the ones who know the right way. Art therapy is a great environment to make my own decisions.”

U-M offers one-on-one art therapy sessions for cancer patients and survivors, led by Margaret Nowak, the Cancer Center’s art therapist. The sessions are designed to help patients increase self-awareness and cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences.

Nowak says that the dynamic of these sessions allows patients control they sometimes lack in other aspects of their lives. Sessions begin with a discussion about the patient’s health and well-being, and from there, Nowak helps direct patients toward an artistic avenue of their choice.

Read the rest of Creative Controlor check out our art therapy video casts and try it for yourself!  If you’re a patient, please call 877-907-0859 to make an art therapy appointment or to get more information.

Have you tried art therapy?  If so, please share your experiences with us!

Read the latest issue of Thrive

The latest issue of Thrive, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s patient publication, is now available online.

Check out our cover story about options available to women who would like to start a family after cancer treatment has impaired their fertility. The issue also features stories about helping children cope with their parents’ cancer diagnoses and 10 ways to make better decisions about cancer care. Our dietitians weigh in on popular supplements, and our art therapist discusses the benefits of spending time on creative projects.

Visit Thrive online at Take time to browse our archive, too.