Medical center offers free art therapy classes for cancer patients - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Medical center offers free art therapy classes for cancer patients

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Posted: Saturday, July 23, 2011 12:00 pm

It is a life-changing event to be told you have cancer.

The process can be overwhelming and emotional for the patients and their families while going through treatments, meeting with doctors and taking medication to help ease the symptoms and treat the cause.

But most of these steps are to help a person get better physically. There are classes being offered at a local cancer center that are designed to help patients recover emotionally and deal with their issues from a mental standpoint.

The classes, called Expressive Arts Therapies, are being hosted by the Cancer Center at the Chandler Regional Medical Center, 475 S. Dobson Road, and are free of charge to any cancer patients and their families. There are four different types of classes-music therapy, journaling, expressive movement and art therapy.

Each session is once per week and goes for six weeks. Each class is self-contained, meaning if you miss a week, you won’t fall behind.

Starting next week is music therapy on July 26 and journaling on July 27. The music class focuses on healing through music in ways like writing lyrics and playing instruments.

“Sometimes I didn’t know what was bothering me until I would have to write lyrics for a song they would be playing,” Dr. La Verne Abe Harris, who has leukemia, said. “All of a sudden something would click and it became real personal. It’s a way to put down into words the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing.”

The journaling program is also designed to help patients express themselves through writing and talk about what is on their minds.

“You can live all day thinking about it and dealing with emotional issues,” said cancer survivor Oslynn Benjamin. “Journaling in itself was like going to therapy.”

The expressive movement program is a therapy based on movement and dance. Teachers will play music and offer instruction on how to utilize body movements.

Art therapy consists of a different project each week. The instructor will give an idea and the patients will paint or build a sculpture from scratch.

“With all the negativity with cancer and all the side effects, we found something that could get our minds off ourselves and off what we are going through,” said cancer patient Erika Scheffler. “I have taken the classes twice and I am so happy with it.”

Other than participating in the different therapies, the patients build relationships with one another because they either have or are going through similar situations.

“You build camaraderie with the others,” Harris said. “The classes help with the quality of life and it is an incredible service.”

The music therapy classes are on Tuesdays at the Cancer Center from 5:30 to 7 p.m. through Aug. 30. The journaling classes are Wednesdays, starting July 27, through Aug. 31, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

To register in advance, call 1(877) 728-5414 or to find out more information, call the Chandler Regional Medical Center at (480) 728-3000.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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