Art therapy brings smiles to cancer patients' faces - FOX 35 News Orlando

Art therapy brings smiles to cancer patients' faces

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The 'C' word causes chaos and confusion as soon as the doctor says it:

"You have cancer."

But one Central Florida hospital is hoping to take some of the pain away by offering patients a creative outlet.

Andi Canny is making her rounds at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando. Canny is not a nurse or a doctor, but she has access to some powerful medications for her patients.

"Art can actually help people step by step through the process of everything they deal with, when they are dealing with cancer," Canny said.

The remedy is simple, she says: Any kind of art is healing to the body, mind, and spirit, especially patients fighting cancer. 

"It not only gives people a way to pass all those hours, but its so much research to say people don't ask for pain meds while they are working on art. Their mind is distracted," Canny said.

Patient Jennifer Lin was diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve. Less than a month later, on January 15, she underwent surgery. After almost a month of recovery, more bad news.

"I started crying because right away, when someone tells you that you need chemo, you just feel like it's a life sentence," Lin remembers.

For four hours at a time, she is connected to a machine pumping medicine throughout her body.

Painting "made the time go by," Lin said. "I didn't focus on this medicine. I was so deep into the art."

She welcomes the art as a distraction and becomes so immersed she manages to forget about her sickness.

"It's kind of relaxing, and you're working on the detail, and the painting, and just the art coming to life. It makes me forget about the cancer treatment and the diagnosis," Lin said.

Canny says convincing patients to take part can be a challenge. But once they do, they love it.
"I'm not asking you to sell this in a New York gallery. It's just an opportunity for you to express, and play and have fun," Canny laughs. "It's so empowering. It not only distracts them, but it gives them something to focus on, and it starts broadening their horizons."

And as an artist, Canny benefits as much as they do by sharing her skills, talents and treasures.

"It's nice for me to come into a situation like this where people are in need, and think I can actually make a difference with what my skills are, so it's quite empowering for me," Canny said.

Artwork by cancer patients is on exhibit at the CityArts Factory. "Healing Arts: The Story of Survival" runs through March 16 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is free.  

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