Healing Through Art

Eliana Berman, RN

Patricia “Pat” Campbell, B.S.N., RN, is the perfect example of the phrase “Once an oncology nurse, always an oncology nurse.”

Pat recently retired after working for years as a respected nurse in clinical research and radiation oncology. She was admired by her fellow staff members and patients alike for her quiet, sweet and caring ways. She was always there to greet them with her happy smile and sunny disposition. She is much missed at the clinic where she worked with radiation oncology patients. Patients still come in and ask for her.

When she retired, Pat planned to tour the country in an RV with her husband, but family health issues forced a change in those plans. Luckily for us, she decided to stay in the area. While she loves her retirement, she misses her interaction with patients who have cancer, and we miss the wisdom she gained during her years as an oncology nurse. She stays current by attending our local Oncology Nursing Society chapter meetings and events.

Pat decided to join the governing board of the Florida nonprofit Charlene’s Dream, Inc., a grassroots community cancer resource center. It is a warm and welcoming haven for those with cancer who are seeking information. It is a resource center wrapped up to look like a boutique. It's a place to try on wigs, hats, mastectomy bras, lymphedema sleeves and breast prostheses. It is a place where all cancer patients can feel free to ask questions and get free assistance.

Pat is a painter and a very artistic person. Still wanting to help patients, she agreed to co-facilitate the arts therapy support group at Charlene’s Dream with a fellow nurse co-leader. Their goal is to allow survivors to express themselves through art therapy. They understand that sometimes it is easier to talk to others when there is a non-threatening task at hand. Pat and her co-facilitator know that, sometimes, hands that have experienced chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy may not be as deft and limber as “normal” hands, but that the strength of that survivor to participate in class is enough to inspire anyone. Pat uses her patience and skill at offering encouragement to remind patients with chemo brain what the last set of instructions was. She understands that frustration over a simple craft task can mean a lot more than it appears, and her gentle ways encourage patients in that situation to speak up and share their thoughts.

Pat is our very own Martha Stewart and comes up with many of the projects that are selected for class. One month it might be reusable decorative name tags so that the women learn each other’s names. Another month it might be journal decorating to kick off a series on the advantages of journaling and documenting feelings. Some of the projects made in the class are diversionary and meant to help survivors cope. Stamping and scrapbooking usually can be done at home no matter how the patient is feeling and can provide a sense of accomplishment even on days when the patient doesn’t feel well.

Pat’s artistic sense also comes in handy whenever Charlene’s Dream schedules an event to introduce survivors to donors, or even just the annual tea party that we throw for all of the survivors. Pat’s decorating skills and artistic flair make the events extra special and give the patients an extra boost.

Through her association as a board member of a local beauty professional’s school, she was able to facilitate their generous donation to give all the patients of Charlene’s Dream complimentary hair appointments, facials and massage therapy visits. What a gift this is to women who really could use a little pampering!

In her retirement, Pat has found a great way to meld some of her different talents and creative abilities in addition to using her oncology skills through volunteering with cancer patients. We are hopeful that other oncology nurses will choose to share their talents in their retirements with the cancer survivors in their communities who need their help. Thank you, Pat, and all who generously give of your gifts!
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