In a new publication appearing in the journal Arts & Health, one of my teams explores what it was like for us as researchers to become participants in a creative project – a sort of role reversal. Guided by a professional artist, Mary Pfaff, we started with some prompts from a creative writing project completed with people who had cancer. Excerpts from their writing helped us to consider our understandings of cancer experiences and to convey those ideas through creative projects.

A sample of one woman’s writing appears below. Mary responded to the writing with a painting entitled “The space around my heart.” Details from that painting appear on this page.

There’s a pain
in my body

A betrayal

A fear
in my chest

In the space
around my heart…

Breast cancer survivor

Another team member created the piece with birds and said that it could be valuable to explore the experiences of caregivers as well.

After the workshops, one of our team members had this to say about her participation:

The workshops helped reduce my own stress, take a step back to imagine the cancer experience from the patient’s perspective. The workshop made me ponder – how to tear down the wall between patient and researcher, or patient and friend/family member that would otherwise prevent relatability between survivor and outsider. These new perspectives could help us connect with someone we know who has been diagnosed – what are they going through? How are they feeling? What are we doing that is damaging? How can we help them?

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Roanne Thomas, Tricia Morrison, Stephanie Saunders, Mary Pfaff, Wendy Gifford, Josee Boulanger, Brianna Hammond & Chad Hammond (2018): Situating our Selves: Using mixed media to convey experiences of psychosocial cancer research, Arts & Health, DOI: 10.1080/17533015.2018.1494453