Art Provides Healing Outlet for Young Cancer Patients

February 12, 2013

During the month of February, the atrium of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center will be brightly adorned with artwork created by the Center’s pediatric cancer patients. With the guidance of art therapist Tracy Councill, the patients created works while reflecting on their journey with cancer. Councill runs Tracy’s Kids, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping young cancer patients and their families cope with the emotional stress and trauma of cancer and its treatment.

The goal of the art program is to promote positive energy and healing and to maintain an atmosphere filled with creativity and hope. During visits to the Center, children spend time in between treatments painting and drawing in a space designated for that purpose.

Nonverbal techniques such as creating art can help patients process trauma and rebuild their self-esteem. It can also help them cope better with treatment. “Our mission is to ensure that the children and families we serve are emotionally equipped to fight cancer as actively as possible—and prepared for the time when they are cancer free,” says Councill.

Accompanying many of the pieces is a description by the child who created it. The piece titled “Bridge to Healing” by 19-year-old Bridget, includes her own personal note: “I wanted to go to school, learn how to drive, and just get on with my life beyond dealing with my cancer. But like many people in my situation I wasn’t sure how and where to begin, and that alone made me hesitate to start. …. While I’m still in the middle of my crossroads, I will eventually find my way to a future where I can balance my life in and out of the hospital.”

One piece is a collaboration between two brothers, ages 3 and 5, the older of whom is fighting cancer. Another piece includes a poem by 20-year-old Bassam, who writes, “This is a poem about the beginning of malignancy and the paradox of how a single cell acquires ‘immortality’, and eventually presents the danger of death.”

The Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Georgetown’sLombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is renowned for providing emotional and developmental support to patients and families. Tracy’s Kids has played no small role in building this reputation.

“Today, well over 70% of children diagnosed with cancer will beat the disease and live the overwhelming majority of their lives cancer free,” says Councill. “Tracy's Kids is dedicated to helping to ensure that the children we serve are ready to live full, happy and healthy lives.”

By Sarah Kana