Art Therapy for Cancer Healing

Art provides a unique outlet for individuals to express emotions in ways that words simply cannot.

The Healing Through Art therapy program at the Cancer Support Community of Delaware, whose participants now have works on display at the Delaware Art Museum, proved to be no exception. Rightfully named, the program helped local cancer patients, survivors, their caregivers, and family members develop their own works of art that tell the journey of cancer from each of their personal perspectives. An opening reception was held at the museum on Thursday, August 17.

Aware of the emotional and mental benefits of art therapy on those touched by cancer, the CSCDE approached the Delaware Art Museum about devising a special art therapy program. CSCDE Program Director Sean Hebbel teamed up with local art therapists Kathy Hrenko and Vanessa Simon at the Delaware Art Museum to bring the vision of the expressive arts workshop and exhibit to life.

“It used to be hard to talk about cancer and how it affected not only me but my family, too,” said program participant Christine Kennedy. “The program was very therapeutic and soothing. It helped me to learn how to put my story into words and express my feelings to others. The support I received at Cancer Support Community was amazing.”

Hebbel was excited to offer the art therapy sessions, led by the art therapists, at CSCDE because of the classes’ ability to provide an outlet for healing and improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. “The process was an incredibly therapeutic, rewarding and transformative experience for our participants.”

Simon knows firsthand the benefits of art therapy. She recalls seeking art as a form of healing during her own cancer recovery. “I found solace in art through photography, storytelling, and creative community. Taking photos helped me to look for things that I was grateful for, to see the world again not through the lens of cancer but through new eyes of life.”

“After my diagnosis last year I was seeking was to help reduce stress,” said art therapy program participant Marianne Sarcich. “Nothing clicked until I attended an art therapy class with my family. I finally found a way to focus and clear my mind of everyday stresses. I’ve found peace in the details of sketching and how I can focus in one section at a time until it’s how I envisioned.” Sarcich has continued to sketch since the program ended. 

Simon is grateful she could present the same opportunity for healing to others. “I’ve had participants tell me that they just felt a ‘need to create’ since going through cancer, even though often times they were not ‘artists’ or ‘creative’ types. Many of those same individuals have told me since our program ended they’ve continued to create art to continue the healing process and to relieve stress.”

The partnership was funded in part thanks to Christiana Care and Delaware Division of the Arts.  

Cancer Support Community Delaware is a statewide nonprofit organization that provides support services to cancer patients, caregivers and their families.  

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About the Contributor

Brittany Anthony

Brittany Anthony

Brittany Anthony is the development manager at Cancer Support Community Delaware and a running coach at Ursuline Academy. She previously served for 5 years as the development / pr manager at Faithful Friends Animal Society and is in fact the proud owner of her own rescue dog, Jackson.

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