GENEVA – Cancer patients are healing themselves and each other as they create artwork in a studio setting that provides a supportive environment.
Participants in the art program at LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva share their stories with each other as they express themselves through paintings, jewelry, pottery photographs and other artwork.
“This makes me feel alive again,” said Christine Falls of Batavia, who said she lives her life in three-week increments, marked by cancer infusion treatments.
In between, Falls’ gets an infusion of artistic and social rejuvenation at LivingWell’s art studio.
“I can be this creative person and interact with other people,” Falls said.
Artwork by Falls and more than 50 other Fox Valley cancer patients and people affected by cancer will be on display at the annual Art From Within Show, from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 4 at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave. in St. Charles.
Admission to the show is free and proceeds from the sale of artwork will go to the artists. Many of the artists will be on hand and light refreshments will be served.
LivingWell art instructor Cheri Hunt leads up to 10 classes a week at the center Monday through Thursday, each with about eight to 12 participants working in the well-appointed art studio.
The participants create a variety of artwork while sharing their stories with each other and finding a renewed appreciation for life.
“They lose the anxiety, stress and depression. Their creativity is unleashed. The bonding that happens is incredible,” Hunt said.
“Being able to express myself in a supportive environment has changed my life, my outlook and how I respond to people,” Dana Vassos of St. Charles said.
Vassos beat cancer, but the emotional effects of her battle with the disease are still with her, and she finds support and encouragement with a group of people who understand.
“There’s a lot of stuff I realized I hadn’t processed about my own cancer journey,” Vassos said.
Pat Reisdorf of St. Charles will not allow cancer to define who she is.
“I’m a person taking art classes, and I have cancer,” Reisdorf said.
Creating art gives cancer patients who are facing daily physical challenges a sense of accomplishment.
“I feel like I can actually do something,” Alex Weber of Geneva said.
The friendly setting and shared experiences make conversation easy.
“The greatest plus is talking with fellow cancer patients,” said Sharon Williamson of Elgin. “Everybody has their story and you don’t feel intimidated.”
Lynne Descheemaeker of Campton Hills is a professional radiation therapist who has treated cancer patients and is now dealing with the disease herself.
“It can happen to anybody and it does happen to anybody,” Descheemaeker observed.
The artwork has been therapeutic for someone who has been in a role that demands perfection, she said.
“This is helping me to learn how to not be perfect,” Descheemaeker said.
LivingWell is located at 442 Williamsburg Ave. on Geneva’s west side, and is affiliated with Northwestern Medicine.
The center provides cancer patients, their families and caregivers with a variety of services free of charge.
Services include counseling, stress-relief, medical updates, nutritional education, therapeutic massages and exercise classes and specialized support groups.
The center has 16 full- and part-time staff members include social workers, counselors and dietitians, supported by more than 100 volunteers.
In addition to the art studio, there are a variety of meeting rooms for programs and counseling, a children’s playroom, outdoor patios and gardens and an expansive kitchen and dining area. There are make-up classes and wig boutique for patients to restore their appearances.
LivingWell serves an average of 720 participants per week with more than 100 programs.
Support groups are a big part of LivingWell’s services, and these are designed for patients facing specific types of cancer, including breast, prostate or leukemia. There are groups for caregivers and those suffering grief from the loss of a loved one.
More information and registration is available by calling LivingWell Cancer Resource Center at 630-262-1111.
LivingWell’s website address is: https://livingwellcrc.org.