By Lyn Jerde, Gilda’s Club member
My name is Lyn Jerde. I have been a Gilda’s Club member since 2019, when I was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. That cancer appears to be in remission, as is the breast cancer that was diagnosed in November 2020. Right now, my cardiac problems pose my biggest health challenge — but of course, once cancer comes into your life, its hold on you never truly ends. That’s why I appreciate Gilda’s Club, where I can be around people who know what it’s like to live with cancer (their own or a loved one’s).
I am 65 now. In June 2019, while I was still undergoing chemo for the lymphoma, I retired after 40 years as a newspaper reporter, the last 11 years at the Portage Daily Register.
Until about 2 years ago, I never thought of myself as an artist. The doodles I drew in my reporter’s notebook were supposed to be cats, but they didn’t look even remotely feline.
When I stumbled on art therapy by Zoom through Gilda’s Club in spring 2021, I just had to be part of it — and to this day, I don’t know why. The first session was titled “Spread Good Memories,” and it entailed painting shirts. I painted a shirt that day — and in the coming weeks I painted another, and another, and another…until I had a huge wardrobe of original art that I could show anytime I went out in public wearing one of my creations. The shirt-painting was with an art therapy intern. Subsequently, I participated in lessons via Zoom with Mallory Shotwell and therapy sessions with a different intern and with Molly Linn-Miller.
What I liked best about working with Molly was, she offered ideas for media I hadn’t tried yet, like clay, and metallic markers on black paper. She also opened my eyes to new techniques in media I’d tried before, especially collage.
When the sessions with Molly were held by Zoom, she’d tell us the topic or theme in advance, such as “light in darkness,” “relaxation” or “gratitude.” We could choose our medium, and how we’d express that theme artistically. Some real therapy happened for me in that process.
Making art, any art, is therapeutic for me. It’s even more therapeutic to make art in the presence of other cancer survivors — to show what I create, see what others make, and learn from each other. The sheer variety of the art produced in these groups is glorious.