Spending time in the waiting room at Sierra Nevada Cancer Center is a bit rare. For Elaine Martin, a patient who’s now in remission from her bout with lymphoma, it was also fate. Had she not been in the waiting room prior to her maintenance regimen, she never would have known that the photo she submitted to the Lilly Oncology On Canvas art gallery in 2014 was accepted and published.
“I started thumbing through the Lilly photo gallery book while I was waiting. I was surprised to see my family photo in there,” said Elaine. “It brought tears to my eyes. That photo of my dad and sister always does.”
The photo, taken by Elaine’s younger sister Jody on her cell phone, captured a touching father-daughter moment between Elaine’s dad, Clarence and her oldest sister Marcia. Marcia, who had Downs Syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease, was dying of pneumonia. Her father, who had recently finished chemotherapy to treat lymphoma, was weak and was told to avoid public places due to his weakened immune system. But nothing was going to stop him from traveling to see his eldest child one more time.
“It was hard for my dad to even leave the house,” Elaine recalled. “It’s horrible for a father to lose a child. And when you’re as ill as he was, and almost not able to bear the thought of seeing his daughter like that, and then to have to put it all aside—it took every ounce of strength he had left to go.”
It is fortunate that Clarence made that challenging journey to the hospital, as Marcia passed away a few days later, and Elaine’s dad passed away nine months later.
To Elaine, the photo is sad reminder of a difficult time when she lost two family members but it would also become a source of strength. Just six months after her dad’s passing, Elaine herself was diagnosed with the same type of cancer as her father. “It took a long time to accept the diagnosis,” Elaine said. “The picture was so important to me. I could see how sick they both were. I decided I wasn’t going to get that sick. The picture was my strength while I was going through chemo.”
Three years later, a modest 5 x 7 photo of the reunion still adorns Elaine’s bedroom. And now it is an enduring part of the Lilly Oncology On Canvas art gallery for all cancer patients, their families and caregivers to share.
Taking research to heart that shows art therapy can help alleviate physical and emotional symptoms associated with cancer, Sierra Nevada Cancer Center has participated in the Oncology on Canvas events that encourage patients and caregivers express their journey through art.
For more information on the Lilly Oncology On Canvas program, which helps support healing experiences through creativity, visit the Lilly website.