I want to share, as Paul Harvey (rip) used to say: the rest of the story.
In a coffee shop right off the highway we settled in with a couple of glasses of cold java. It was easy to be immediately intimate, cancer experiences create quick bonds. Amy described how she was her husband's advocate every minute he was in chemo and did her best to cheer up the rest of the treatment room as well. One night she was exhausted and cried to a friend. "I just don't think I can take another minute of looking at those @%$!** ceilings," she wailed, describing the long, scary hours they spent at the treatment center. "Well," replied her wise and flippant confidante, "take the flippin' tile down and paint it."
Don't issue Amy Jo a challenge....the next day she was in sharing her plan with the staff. Of course she got push back: "We are an evidence based healing center," was one retort to which Amy responded by drowning the commenter in clinical studies related to art and healing. "We can't buy the tiles," was another excuse that sent Amy guaranteeing all tiles would be paid for outside hospital funds. "Let me see what you have in mind" was the best comment as Amy happily showed up with 6 gorgeous tiles of coy fish circling in a dreamy pond. It blew them away and Amy rode off in the sunset to ask a few more artists to paint a few more tiles which friends had eagerly agreed to purchase.
AmyJo & Bill Edwards with tile painted by Tammy Blinkly of Elk park, NC
Now when Amy and Bill arrive at the hospital with another load of paintings the word travels fast.
"We line them up along a hallway as we unload," she explains, "and as we decide where to put them the different room managers and nurses almost knock themselves over trying to be the first to choose." She chuckled over how one manager is "theming" her treatment room with all the wacky pieces she can get her hands on. Another is partial to ocean scenes and tries to get first dibs on anything with water. "We even have the doctors sending down "scouts" now," Amy laughs. "They were slow to get excited but now they want them in the exam rooms and elsewhere." She relates that one or two docs even came forth wanting to buy some of the tiles to frame and hang. But true to her goals Amy refused the offers. "These are gifts from the artists. They paint from their hearts with a specific audience in mind. We are happy to provide the artist directory so anyone can contact the artist directly and buy other pieces. Healing Ceilings is not profit motivated nor money needy."
Amy Jo, myself, Bebe and Betsy unpack the art from FL,
pictured with tile by Kathy Garvey, Palm Bay, FL artistWord is spreading. "I don't believe in coincidence," she says, "The people who get on board have a whole set of reasons for connecting with us. The ripple affect is spreading and it is spreading in powerful directions." She get tears as she talks about an artist who is losing her fight with the big C but will live on via the sensitive tiles she painted for the room she endured her chemo in. I get chills as she tells the story of how a friend healed from the loss of a loved one by painting totally out of her style. And I tear up ,too, thinking of the names that Cheri Glover and I put on the backs of our tiles to dedicate them to persons now fighting their own battles.
oohhing and aahhing in the parking lot as handoff is made!
pictured is a healing tree by Cheri Glover, Elk Park, NC artist
One last pull of coffee and we bounded out to the cars to make the handoff. By now we are joined by Betsy Troxler from Boone and Bebe, her friend also of Raleigh. We wiped the tears and now celebrated like crazy women in the parking lot. People driving by would slow and look carefully as we lined up art and began loading it into Bill's car. We took pictures and laughed and were so glad to be a part of this unique program. There is not a lot I can do to help find a cure for cancer, it is one of those things that make a mere mortal feel very small. But I promise you, if something I paint will give a cancer patient even fifteen minutes of amusement, or serenity, or distraction, then by golly that is something this mere mortal can and will do!!
Here's hoping that many more cancer care centers will be willing to dive in and let artists make a contribution to the emotional health and attitudes of both patients and caregivers. Cheers!
Betsy Troxler of Boone, NC with her tile headed to the Raleigh, NC
cancer treatment center