I was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago. I didn’t and still don’t like to talk with others about the chemo, hair loss, radiation and fear, but I still needed an outlet. While loved ones around me wanted to put on the forever-optimistic face, sometimes I just felt crappy and isolated.
A few years ago, I met Lisa McKhann when we were both on the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council (ARAC) Board. She showed up one month for a meeting bald with the headscarf. Ovarian Cancer. She was angry. As a dancer and visual artist, she took her diagnosis to task. She went to work recruiting other cancer patients and survivors (including me) for online anonymous journaling. She gave us prompts and let us loose. We could keep our thoughts private or share them with no names attached. After a month we gave it a rest, and after a few months, she, with our permission, took excerpts and composed a readers’ theatre that was performed in Duluth one Sunday afternoon. Talk about cathartic! I was in the company of others who experienced similar feelings, feelings that sometimes included a bit of humor.
Now with a big thanks to a grant from ARAC, the same journaling is now available in the Grand Rapids area. Lisa and I are calling it Arts Express. This time participants also will have other modes of expression available to them. On October 4 on the third floor of Old Central School, painter Elizabeth Kuth from Duluth will offer a workshop. On October 11, former poet laureate of Duluth, Sheila Packa will offer a poetry workshop. Lisa and I are now extending invitations to patients and survivors and caretakers to join us. You may do so by logging on to projectlulu.org/arts_express. Project Lulu was founded by Lisa, and I am a proud board member. You may just want to noodle around the Project Lulu site to discover more incredible projects.
Arts Express is made possible by the Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital, MacRostie Art Center and UMD Bookstores who contributed printing, food, space and arts supplies.
No matter how far out you are from diagnosis or what stage or kind of cancer came knocking at your family’s door—this is for you.