The Art of Healing for Cancer Survivors and Caregivers

The Cause

The cancer journey brings many emotional, physical and practical challenges. While in Edmonton for cancer treatment, some NWT cancer survivors have experienced the benefits of cancer psychosocial support programs. However, such programs do not exist in the NWT. The NWT Breast Health/Breast Cancer Action Group wants this type of cancer support program to be available here for all cancer survivors and their caregivers.
To start an NWT cancer psychosocial support program, the Action Group obtained funds in 2010-2013 to develop and pilot an Art of Healing program for breast cancer survivors in Yellowknife and other NWT communities. The program is adapted from the Arts in Medicine program at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. The past founder of the Edmonton program provided training to NWT artists and therapists in how to facilitate it.
Art of Healing sessions include meditation and relaxation, facilitated sharing, discussion and support, creative exploration with an art medium, reflective writing and feedback. We will add a nutrition component, as past program participants have recommended this in their program evaluations. The program is facilitated by a local therapist and a local artist. The Action Group Board and project coordinator ensure the program is carried out with sensitivity and complete confidentiality. Half of our Board members are themselves cancer survivors.
In April 2014 with United Way NWT funds we held another pilot program that included women dealing with other cancers. We propose to hold an Art of Healing program in Yellowknife in October 2015 and include caregivers for the first time. In the long term, by demonstrating the benefits of this program model we will encourage the NWT health system to make psychosocial support programs available for all survivors and caregivers dealing with cancer in the NWT.

Who Will it Benefit?

The Art of Healing program will provide the opportunity for current and recent female cancer survivors and caregivers to access emotional support, healing, insights and strategies for dealing with the impacts of cancer, and to develop new personal support networks. We will also invite a nutritionist to talk about cancer and nutrition as this was requested by participants in our previous Art of Healing program. We will limit the program to women because there are some issues that women may find difficult to discuss in a mixed gender group, such as the impact of cancer on self-image and sexuality.

There will be a maximum of 12 participants in the program. The program will be facilitated by a Yellowknife therapist and artist who have received the program training.

The Art of Healing program builds on the collaboration between the wellness and arts sectors of the community that began with the training and pilot programs held in 2010 – 2013. The program will also increase community capacity in Yellowknife to meet the needs of residents dealing with cancer, and their caregivers.
The Action Group believes that by demonstrating the value of a cancer psychosocial support program model we will increase the likelihood that such a program will be integrated into the delivery of cancer care in Yellowknife and the NWT as a whole, for the benefit of all cancer survivors and their caregivers.