Her deeply moving story of a courageous, creative and faith-filled approach to this dreaded disease started in her own journal and expanded as entries in an online support community for people dealing with cancer. I was honored to be part of her support team at Caring Bridge, and was moved by each posting, which included writings and drawings done with her non-dominant hand and bold, child-like collages expressing her feelings and challenges with cancer and chemotherapy. We were allowed to witness what it’s like to live with cancer, from the inside out.
Like most people, Pat felt she was no artist. As she says in her book, “My artistic skills stopped developing after I marched out of preschool at 4 years of age because a teacher criticized my choice of colors for an art project.” It’s a too-familiar story of how we get cheated out of our natural birthright as inherently expressive, creative beings. While still working as a minister Pat had done expressive arts training with me, which she admits changed her life. She knew the power of “getting it all out on paper” and showed others how to do that. It became another form of her ministry. She helped others give themselves permission to express their innermost feelings and wishes. Yet Pat still had an Art Critic living in her own head. As she says in her book, “The work is crude, but gentle, and if I can silence the powerful inner critic that lives within me, it becomes valuable and healing.”
|Drawing of body with cancer|
About her Tree of Life collage, Pat wrote that she was “surrounded by love on all sides, held securely and protected where the loving God alone is enough, my source and my strength.” She later described this collage to me as a form of prayer. Her faith and her art were coming together. She knew then that God was at work in her behalf and the energy had shifted within her body. God worked through her friends as well. Art paper started appearing at her door and in her mail box. She began receiving the supplies she needed to continue her journaling and "kindergarten art."
|Tree of Life collage|
|Eye of the Hurricane|
She did, indeed, beat cancer. However, it came back a couple of years later. This time cancer had a lesson to teach her about boundaries, saying Yes to herself and No to others. She entered chemotherapy again and resumed her journal work. Her journaling revealed that she had gone back to life as usual after the first round of treatment, and had abandoned her creative expression. She had to learn to say No to things that interfered with her inner life, creative self and inner knowing. The message was that she could not live without creative expression. Pat got the message.
She asserted herself with doctors, following her gut and body wisdom, and discontinued the second round of treatment. In the face of everyone else’s opinions, professionals and family alike, she persisted in listening to her inner guidance. Her first oncologist had himself died of cancer. The second oncologist informed her that there was no research showing what would happen if a second round of chemo was discontinued. She stood strong. “Then I’ll be the first case study,” she told him. That was two years ago and Pat is cancer-free. She continues her inner work through journaling, prayer and self-care. And she has a new ministry: a truly precious guide to cancer from the inside out in the form of her book.
For those of us who have lost a loved one to cancer or any terminal illness, or anyone diagnosed with one, this book is a treasure. Pat succeeded in what she set out to do. She shows us how to find peace and serenity in the eye of the hurricane. And, hey, come to think of it. You don’t have to have cancer to need this book. We all face hurricanes of confusion, doubt, chaos in daily life. Thank you, Pat, for this powerful road map.
Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com