Art promotes healing, well-being for cancer patients at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute

uf-arb1609_3409aConversation gently buzzes, punctuated every now and then with a burst of laughter, a hearty greeting, or even sometimes a tear-laced wail. This is a gathering spot, a playroom, an art studio and music performance space all-in-one. It is the main lobby and waiting room at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.
A woman walks with her family as her doctor, nurse and radiation therapists watch her move toward the center of the two-story lobby encircled by windows and a winding staircase. She places her hand on a multi-colored woven wool rope tethered to a six-foot tall chime suspended in the center of the space. As she pulls the rope, a melodic sound rings out and spontaneous applause mixes with the vibration.
This rite of passage marks the end of six to eight weeks of daily proton therapy for cancer patients treated at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville. It is a ritual that has been in place since Aud’s Chime was dedicated in 2012 by its namesake, Audrey Anderson, a young girl from Australia who was treated for a brain tumor the year before. Her mother and uncle thought of the idea while passing time in the lobby with artist-in-residence Barbara Fryefield. They thought the chime could be a symbol of hope and healing.uf-arb1609_3393a-600
It is just one of many art projects that have sprung from patients and caregivers who have spent time painting, weaving, knitting, drawing, cutting and pasting under the gentle guidance of the artists-in-residence on staff. One woman, while waiting for her husband to complete his daily proton therapy for prostate cancer, learned to use a circular needle to knit caps. She returned months later, long after he had completed treatment, to deliver more than a hundred caps she had knitted for patients. Another woman, while waiting for her granddaughter being treated for cancer, knitted white cotton caps as small as quarters and larger ones that fit in the palm of your hand to donate to babies born prematurely at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
“These precious gifts of love are what the art program at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is all about – sharing and conversation,” says Fryefield.
The artist-in-residence program started at the Institute in 2011 with a $16,000 LIVESTRONG Community Impact Project grant to integrate art and health care for pediatric patients. Since then, the art program has grown to include adult patients and caregivers, and is one of the essential patient-care activities that include music, yoga and weekly luncheons.uf-arb1609_3370a
Research shows art in medicine has a multitude of benefits. It helps lower blood pressure, helps reduce anxiety, lessens the need for pain medications, shortens hospital stays and promotes feelings of well-being, just to name a few. A recent study reported that creating art, regardless of experience level, significantly reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in test subjects. Similar effects are observed in patients who view art. The trend over the past few decades to incorporate colorful décor and art, particularly images of nature and landscapes, in hospitals and medical facilities is intentional to promote a healing environment.

Read MoreArticle written by Theresa Edwards Makrush

Author: Arbus

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