The Art of Cancer Recovery

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Scholarship recipient Pam Merola learned to create art without judgment and find relief from her cancer side effects. 

Listen to your body’s desire to create without judgment. This is Stewart Cubley's one rule for his workshops. 

Pam Merola, a scholarship participant in Cubley’s Awakening the Creative workshop at Omega in June of 2018, took this advice to heart—both in the workshop and when she returned home. It helped her find more time for creative expresssion—and experience some serious pain relief, too.

She started painting during art therapy at the Carol G. Cancer Center at Morristown Medical to help her cope with stage 4 cancer and found that she really enjoyed this form of expression. She soon started looking for painting workshops to attend, which is how she found Omega and Stewart Cubley’s workshop.

No Experience Necessary

Pam had no formal training in the arts but discovered she loved expressing her feelings through painting and found that it helped her release the fear and anxiety she was feeling.

“I’ve always loved arts and crafts since I was young,” she said. “I picked it up again after my cancer diagnosis and it has worked out well. I find that my painting time is a time of peace and quiet. I get lost in the art and let go of all the other thoughts swirling in my head.”

At the workshop, she said it took her a little time to get used to the open studio format. After about three days, she realized how inhibited she was feeling and found a big breakthrough in a group discussion.

“It was a pretty cool experience,” she said. “Now, I’m here. I can put some paint on the canvas and see what opens up. It was a process of letting myself be free.”

Taking the Art Home for Pleasure & Pain Relief

Pam now has a dedicated corner of her dining room with cardboard all over the walls that she reserves for Cubley's particular style of painting. She has an easel for other paintings, because she likes keeping different spaces for different kinds of art.

She now describes her time at Omega as her “Omega high.”

“At Omega, I felt so embraced by everyone from the staff members to everyone who attends the workshops,” Pam said. "It’s such a peaceful environment where you feel like you belong. I don’t feel like that everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Her cancer has been stable for the last two years, and she continues to manage the long-term side effects of her treatments.

“I’m a new person with a new body and learning to find ways to live with it all,” she said.

Many times she will begin a painting in pain but then she becomes so engrossed in the creative process that it offers her real pain relief. She doesn’t feel the pain as she’s working.

She is so grateful for the scholarship she received and said it has inspired her to give back, too. She has worked at the cancer center teaching one of the social workers and her group how to make some jewelry pieces, along with sharing with others there about Stewart’s workshop.

“Omega has helped push me to give more because of all that I received,” she said.