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Creative Approach to Healing

Traci Burns loves sharing art classes with her dad, Bob Burns.

Art Sessions Offer an Alternative to Traditional Support Groups

Sylvia Anspach has been helping cancer patients for 30 years. During that time, Anspach, a nurse practitioner with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Hematology & Oncology, has seen changes in how we treat cancer—and in the resources that help patients navigate their cancer journey.

Take support groups. Anspach says, “I led a traditional support group for years. But that model of sitting around talking about your disease is not how people communicate any more.”

Instead, the Nassif Community Cancer Center offers support through activities, from pilates and yoga to creative art sessions. Anspach finds these “support groups that move” have a completely different dynamic.

“The initial focus is on the activity, not the disease,” explains Anspach. “Then as people become more comfortable, they begin to open up. They can share what they want to share, when they are ready to share it.”

Traci Burns agrees. Burns, 46, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2015. Since then, she’s been through surgery and six months of chemotherapy. Along the way, Burns has taken advantage of several Nassif
Community Cancer Center programs. She especially loves the creative art sessions.

“I’ve never painted before but it’s really relaxing,” says Burns. “It’s fun to be creative!” Because most of the other participants and even the instructors are also cancer survivors, Burns appreciates the camaraderie, too. “It’s nice to be around people who understand, because they’ve been through it themselves. It gives me someone I can turn to if I have a question.”

Burns also likes the fact that members of her care team have seen her artwork and talk to her about it. “It makes your relationship more personal. It’s not just about your cancer. You know they care about you as a person.”

Sylvia Anspach, ARNP

Sylvia Anspach sees another reason why patients love the art program: it sets them free. “When you’re going through cancer treatment, life is very regimented. You have to be at your appointments, take your medications at a certain time. But with art, there are no rules. Here patients can do whatever they want.”

Creative art participants can also bring a guest and Burns is accompanied by her father, Bob Burns. “My mom is the one who usually goes to chemo appointments with me,” she says, “so it’s nice to have this time with my dad. I think he’s looking forward to the next class as much as I am!”

For more information about our creative art sessions, click here to view our calendar.


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