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Art, creativity take on cancer

Cancer patients will participate in creative workshops to determine how art can help them make the most of the limited energy they have and improve their wellbeing.

The eight-week HeART Artful Wellbeing program is running from July to September, through Charles Darwin University. The workshops are free and open to people at any stage of cancer treatment or recovery.

HeART founder and arts manager Fiona Carter said: “No previous arts experience is necessary. Well-known local artists will be on hand, running the creative workshops on music, drama, writing, painting, bowl making, dyeing with silk, weaving and printmaking.”

A participant in a pilot program that ran in 2014, Sue Stewart, said the workshops had been life-changing, particularly in relation to her mental health.

“I have never been a big writer, but during the workshops I found my feelings pouring out onto the paper,” she said. “It drew everything out. I was able to better understand my thoughts, deal with my situation and explain it to family and friends.”

CDU professor Marilynne Kirshbaum said: “In the pilot, it was found that hospital-based arts activities provided positive distraction for patients and enhanced their feelings of wellbeing immediately after participation. It was also found that community-based arts programs for cancer survivors provided mutual support and creative enjoyment, and gave participants a sense of purpose.”

The university is undertaking further research, looking into whether arts programs promote health and well-being following or during cancer treatment.

This project is a collaboration between the CDU School of Health and HeART Arts in Cancer Care Program, with assistance from Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre (Royal Darwin Hospital) and the NT Cancer Council.

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