By Amanda, Gilda’s Club Member
I started attending the art classes last summer, completely on a whim. I was recovering from eight rounds of chemo and a second surgery and was getting ready to start 28 rounds of radiation. I was struggling mightily with anxiety and insomnia, in addition to challenges healing from surgery. Still on medical leave from my job, I spent many of my days in bed, trying (and failing) to get some sleep.
The last couple of years had been especially hard, not only with COVID, but with several significant illnesses in my immediate family, including both my mother and mother-in-law’s own breast cancer diagnoses, earlier in the same year as my own. To say I was beaten down is an understatement. I often likened my diagnosis as going into battle with one arm tied behind my back, as I was feeling so depleted from the last couple of years of health concerns and cancer’s impact on my family.
Most of the Gilda’s events I attended up until then were more focused on direct cancer education/care/support. I saw a fabric art class on the calendar, and thought I’d give it a try. I figured at the very least, it would be a fun excuse to get out of the house and be outside in the sun. Plus, I used to love art, and created art fairly regularly all through high school and college. As the years went by, I got busy – with graduate school, then a career. Art fell by the wayside. I had thought that maybe it wasn’t a part of my life anymore.
But by the end of the first art class, I realized how much I missed being creative. It felt good to make something just for me, not not necessarily related to cancer (though I did go on to find that art was also a good coping mechanism for processing the many feelings I was having and continue to have). I knew I’d be signing up for as many classes as I could fit in my schedule.
Through these classes, I’ve started to carve out things that define me beyond my cancer diagnosis. I’ve been able to reconnect with a part of me that I had long thought was lost. And at the first class, I connected with another attendee, who has since become a valued and special friend. We continue to attend art classes and other Gilda’s events together, and support each other.
I can’t really put into words all that I’ve gained from these art classes. What started on a whim has become a cherished part of my survivorship. I am so grateful to Gilda’s Club and to Molly for providing these classes.