Sunday, May 23, 2010

Arts in medicine

By Suzie Siegel

She was an angel with an autoharp. Like many people, I had struggled with sleep in the hospital. She offered to play, and I told her I didn't know if I could stay awake. She laughed and explained she was there to help, not perform a concert. After a few minutes, I snored along with her, in a duet.

During my week at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, the Arts in Medicine staff worked wonders. One man, a friend, maneuvered his double bass into the crowded room. I cried when he played "Evening of Roses," just as another sarcoma patient did several years ago. We think of it as her song. I hadn't cried in a long while, and I made him hold me as I sobbed. That was healing, too.

Drugs and discomfort splintered my sleep until I fell into a dream of love and comfort. I didn't want to forget those feelings. If I could draw the dream, I thought, maybe it could lead me back to the dream world.

An artist came to my room with paper, pencils, pens and paint. I'm no artist, but I convinced myself that I could draw something meaningful to me, even if it had no other merit. I became a child again, delighting in the colors, coloring, coloring, coloring in the midst of the medical world. I drew my dream.

The Arts in Medicine program also includes poetry, journaling, dance and other movement. I'm glad to see bastions of conventional medicine offering other ways of healing, and I hope patients seek them out. Don't wait for your doctor to recommend them because he may know little about them. Ask your hospital staff if they have anything similar. If so, make plans ahead of time. If your hospital has no formal program, invent your own. Bring your own music, notebooks and art materials. As Dr. Jimmie Holland says:

Not all medicine comes in a bottle.

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