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HeartsNeedArt: A Holistic Approach to Cancer Therapy

You need two wings to fly

Hearts Need Art

Cancer patients often experience feelings of isolation in addition to anxiety, depression, PTSD, grief, and spiritual crisis as a result of diagnosis and treatment. Deep human connection is not possible without vulnerability. But, vulnerability can be scary. The arts create a safe space for vulnerability, help facilitate human connection, and offer powerful resources to those facing life-threatening disease.

Chaplain Sally Baily said this in her article The Arts in Spiritual Care, “The arts are now viewed as an integral component of holistic care for patients and families. By offering opportunities to engage in the arts and creative expression, persons with cancer can be enabled to mourn, grieve, celebrate life, be empowered to endure their situation, and find healing and meaning.”

Holistic Medicine

The cancer clinic should feel like a patient’s second home. Treatment does not only imply giving medications to the patient but also hope. Mind and body are two wings of a bird, you cannot fly high without both. If we are going to fight this disease, we should fight the most terrible disease of all – indifference. Our mission is not to simply prevent death but to improve quality of life. In this fight, we must have light.

At Methodist Hospital where I work our motto is “Serving Humanity to Honor God.” Let’s imagine what would happen if every day our body is alive, from childhood until today, was symbolized by the number zero. Let us add up all of those zeros. At the end, we have just added zeros in front of each other. What we have then is the sum total of nothing – no have meaning in the end, just a body. But, let us know imagine what happens if you put the number 1 in front of those collective zeros. Then the sum would be 10, 100, 1000 etc. THIS is meaningful. And that one is God, spirituality, art, music and mind added to our physical being. In Methodist Hospital, we have a vision summarized as I-CARE, which stands for integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence. We seek to treat the patient as a person, as a soul, as a sentient being needing a multi-faceted approach to healing. We strive to empower the soul and emotions as the powerful agents of healing that they are. If I can empower and activate my patients’ emotions and soul to help their body to heal, I will do so. That is my mission as a healer.

A great leader once said a very interesting sentence. He said that there are known knowns, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns. Yes, those things we know about the body we can do something about. But art, music and spirituality help us tackle the unknown territory. It is called the “forgotten factor” but I believe that it is as powerful and important as medicine. You hear a lot about the spontaneous remission project. Our body has innate healing ability. Let’s embrace it! The mind and soul if empowered create a potent medicine for you. Use it, do not forget it. Believe it.

Let me share with you a story about someone who lost the key to his house. He was found looking for the key in the alley. A passenger passed by and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I am looking for the key to my house.” He was asked, “Do you know where did you lost it?” Surprisingly, he said that he lost it in his house. This is what he said when asked why he was searching outside – “I am searching outside because there is no light inside and it is dark.” Let’s enlighten your house, go within with art, spirituality, music and God. Let’s turn on a candle in your house and find the key to your health and happiness. And when you find it, share it.

A good doctor can help you to paddle in the stormy environment in life. The heart needs art. We should always remember that we are humankind. Kindness is the most important attribute added to humans and is what make it humankind. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also it takes a village to heal a cancer patient. A whole team approach is needed to achieve it. This includes all the wonderful nurses, coordinators, social workers, administrative staff, physicians, custodians, the cook – everyone works together for a common goal.

Cancer doesn’t have to be dark and depressing. Let us celebrate life instead of running from death. The arts and spirituality help us celebrate life on the deepest level. Humankind is wired for relationships: relationships with our creator, others, and ourselves. When these relationships suffer, our health suffers. Complete emotional detachment by healthcare providers creates a barrier to patients receiving one of the most powerful healing tools we have: human connection. By incorporating holistic support services such as spiritual care, arts engagement, and psychosocial support we humanize the healthcare environment for patients, family members, and staff.

Hearts Need Art: Creative Support for Adults with Cancer uses the arts to promote emotional and spiritual wellbeing among cancer patients, family members, and staff. It is a nonprofit organization and is primarily funded through community supporters like you. If you would like to help humanize the healthcare experience for cancer patients in the San Antonio community, visit HeartsNeedArt.org.

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