Artist’s Patience, Creativity Brings Hope to Wilmot Cancer Center

June 29, 2005

Maureen Whitsell never considered herself artistic, but she enjoys craft projects if someone can take the time to teach her how.

Whitsell undergoes chemotherapy infusions twice a month to treat colon cancer and has been learning origami -- the Japanese art of folding paper into shapes such as flowers or animals – at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center

Rochester artist Donna Jordan is teaching Whitsell how to properly fold the paper as part of a new art program at Wilmot’s treatment center.  People with cancer undergoing lengthy chemotherapy infusions can enjoy a “simple distraction that keeps their mind off their illness,” she says.

Whitsell agrees: “It’s a lot of fun and it passes the time. Donna guides you through it and you realize that it’s not that hard. I made a giraffe that my granddaughter just loves.”

Jordan, who has a multi-media studio at Anderson Alley, began the program in March as a way to provide support to people during difficult times.  She volunteers to teach patients the techniques for creating a variety of forms of art and crafts – sketching, collage, knitting, magnetic poetry and making clay beads.

“Tending to the spirit is an important part of a person’s recovery,” says Jordan.  “At the very least, art activities provide a welcome distraction from an otherwise stressful experience. Sometimes people get caught up in their thoughts and don’t let themselves let loose and just play.  This is an opportunity for that.”

Visitors to the treatment center also enjoy the artwork, which has begun to decorate the walls. 

“We’re seeing a lot of talent, but more importantly they’re having a lot of fun,” Jordan says.

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Leslie White
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