Make your home page

Cancer patient turned to creative therapy during chemotherapy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Cancer patients seeking alternative or complementary treatment are supplementing radiation, surgery and chemotherapy with creativity. 

Patients are increasingly turning to art therapy to relieve cancer symptoms including pain, anxiety and depression, according to oncologists. 

Community Health Network, based in Indianapolis, offers alternative treatment programs including art therapy, massage therapy, yoga and tai chi. 

Miranda Bleicher, a mother of two who underwent six rounds of chemotherapy in 2015, said “creative journaling” empowered her to confront her emotions and embrace mindfulness following her lymphoma diagnosis. 

“I would sit and journal through treatments,” she told News 8, flipping through pages of mixed-media artwork she created during chemo. “The Benadryl they give through the IV would knock me out and make me so tired. So, I would bring my journal and start journaling, and I could get through the treatments.”

Rather than relying on text-only journal entries, Bleicher learned to expresses herself through colors, images, themes and, sometimes, a single word or emotion in the art therapy group she joined through Community Health Network. 

The pages of her journals each reflect a different mood, challenge or memory, and collectively tell the story of her journey with cancer. 

Art therapy taught her the importance of taking time for herself, she said, in sickness and in health. 

“The journaling helps me focus my thoughts and get them out onto paper to clear my mind,” Bleicher explained. “[Sometimes] you have thoughts that you can’t find the words for.” 

She often turns to color when words fail her. Bleicher said she looks through magazines or scrolls through photos until she sees a hue that makes her think, “That’s what I’m feeling today.”

Although her cancer has now been in remission for nearly three years, she continues journaling and has encouraged her family to share the pastime. 

“There’s something about creating things that feels very calming,” Bleicher said. “It’s also nice to look back and see where your emotions were [and] how they changed.” 

Among the most striking – and chromatically vivid – pages in her four journals is a multicolored remission spread she remembers crafting the day she got her “all-clear” scans. 

A pair of hands, with the index fingers bent to form a heart shape, encircles the word “REMISSION” in bright orange letters. Butterflies, flowers and lively patterns cover the hands, painted maroon, while a psychedelic rainbow of watercolors is splashed across the background. 

“It’s always a work in progress,” said Bleicher, turning to a black-and-white design on another page.