© 2024 WUKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UK Markey Cancer Center uplifts survivors with annual 'Expressions of Courage' event

Cancer survivors engage in pop-up art therapy facilitated by UK Healthcare's Integrative Medicine & Health program.
Clay Wallace
Cancer survivors engage in pop-up art therapy facilitated by UK Healthcare's Integrative Medicine & Health program.

Survivors, patients, and caregivers joined to celebrate National Cancer Survivor's Day.

Casey McKenzie is a cancer survivor who attended the event. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma over a year ago, and said, at the time, he believed it was a “death sentence."

“But all the resources that are available to us through the UK Markey Cancer Center, my healthcare professionals, the support that they offer, the opportunity to have medication that’s really miracle drugs, and being able to empathize with other cancer survivors have been tremendous," said McKenzie. "I’ve gone from thinking I had a death sentence to being able to live life again."

McKenzie said he feels the experience of having cancer is something that can only other survivors can really grasp.

“Your family tries to, your friends try to, and that’s a blessing," said McKenzie, "But until you start talking to other cancer sufferers - or cancer survivors - no one can really understand what you’re going through."

Joan Scales is the supervisor of psych-oncology services at Markey. She said cancer care involves more than just medical treatment.

“How can we be successful with the medical side if we have so many other factors that are impeding the personal side?” she mused.

Scales said that when many cancer survivors complete treatment, they worry about losing support and connections. She said Markey helps by providing resources that equip them with skills to thrive with treatment, without treatment, and into survivorship. One way Markey does that is through art therapy.

“We have poetry, we have songs, we have dance, we have pottery, we have tapestry - all kinds of different mediums," said Scales. "For people to be able to show what their cancer experience was like through that is beautiful."

Jennifer Peyton is a music therapist at Markey. She sat between a table offering art therapy and another offering acupuncture. Her guitar was propped beside her as she guided survivors through a fill-in-the-blank songwriting exercise exploring themes of gratitude.

"Most people are not songwriters," Peyton explained. "They’ve never done anything like that, so it’s a pretty neat experience to have your life kind of sung back to you.”

Peyton said music therapy is used to help patients accomplish non-musical goals – with tangible results.

“Pain perception goes down in 20, 30 minutes," said Peyton. "Just this week, I had a lady whose anxiety was at a seven and by the end of the session it was zero."

At UK HealthCare, music therapy is offered per doctors’ orders to inpatients as part of their Integrative Medicine & Health program. At “Expressions of Courage”, all guests are invited to join in music therapy and other modalities used by the Center, including yoga, visual art therapy, and acupuncture.

“Expressions of Courage” also featured an art exhibit with original work by Markey patients and a Keynote address by cancer survivor Emily McDowell, founder of stationery brand Em & Friends.