Dr. Aggarwal and Tricia Cavender, who moonlights as a hair dresser when she’s not co-running her art gallery, have been working on a project to brighten the halls of the Fort Wayne oncology buildings. What started as an idea during their regular hair appointments, began a process of artistry with patients and families who needed something to look forward to during long and draining cancer treatment sessions.
Cancer has been a six-letter word for Tricia. She and her then three-year-old son watched her late husband, Robert Cavender, succumb to colon cancer in 2006 after only having been diagnosed for a month. She’s avoided hospitals since. After meeting Dr. Aggarwal, Tricia realized that there are physicians who are willing to go above and beyond to ensure their patient’s comfort, and that some patients survive treatment. “[Dr. Aggarwal] wanted to bring in original art to have them focus on what she calls something other than “I have cancer””. The two brainstormed “The Art of Healing” during those hair appointments.
Originally, they planned to hang artwork in the Fort Wayne Oncology Parkview North campus in the infusion rooms. Artwork would rotate out every three months. But after seeing the scope of the entire project and the positive feedback from patients, she enlisted the help of other artists and The HeArt of the City. Tricia now finds artists willing to hang their original pieces in the oncology treatment rooms and hallways, and manages the pieces.
Treatment is a long road for patients and family to travel, and it’s extremely difficult. “Dr. Aggarwal and I really just want to give those affected by cancer a way of meditating on something positive.” The article “Visual art in hospitals: case studies and review of the evidence” discusses the impact of art on both patients, staff, and visitors. One study concluded that visual art can reduce the length of a patient’s hospital stay, increase tolerance to pain, and lower their anxiety. Another study, “The Healing Environment: without and within” states, “levels of depression and anxiety tended to be lower in patients undergoing chemotherapy who were exposed to visual art than in patients not exposed to visual art.” Every study proves that art benefits all involved in the healing process.
Tricia is always looking for more artists to get involved by submitting artwork. “My hope is for the good vibes of this project to snowball and if a patient or family member spends time looking at a piece of art that helped them heal they will take that work of art home,” but the ultimate goal is to alleviate the stress of hospital stays and treatment. Non-artists can also get involved by donating. Rhapsody, Tricia’s art gallery, is holding an event to held raise funds for “The Art of Healing” to provide materials needed to hang work.
Written By: Kaitlin Christenberry