Journaling Cancer in Words and Images: Caught in the Clutch of the Crab

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9780398086725: Journaling Cancer in Words and Images: Caught in the Clutch of the Crab

The American Cancer Society reports that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. One of the realms in which art therapists practice and in which there is a great deal of interest, both within the profession and among related professionals, is in work with cancer patients and their families. This text is a vivid memoir of the author's own cancer diagnosis within the past year. The book is divided into five sections: (1) a brief passage about Creative Expression; (2) the daily journal the author kept along with digressions into issues of concern; (3) surviving, discussions of the follow-up experience in the year after treatment and further significant issues; (4) Cancer Land, the altered book created by the author consisting of paintings and collages of her treatment, accompanied by a CD-ROM of the images in full color (located at the back of the book); and (5) a discussion of writing and making art about the author's own cancer journey with a comparison of these two modes of expression, in which her experience of each was vastly different from the other. For the author, writing and making art were her saviors in times of trouble or pain in the past, so it was only natural for her to turn to them to help her through the cancer challenge to her life. Dealing with serious illness and the threat of death is a part of the human experience, and more than other prevalent illnesses, cancer conjures up fears of suffering, helpless debilitation, and death. This book will be meaningful and of interest to art therapists, other mental health professionals, medical professionals, counselors, the family unit, and all human service providers.

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About the Author:

HARRIET WADESON, PhD, is the Director of the Art Therapy Graduate Program at the University of Illinois. She has over thirty-five years of experience in the field of art therapy and is the author of numerous books, including Advances in Art Therapy (Wiley) and A Guide to Conducting Art Therapy Research.

Review:

Journaling Cancer in Words and Images is a raw, first-person diary with paintings of the author's experience with uterine cancer. Harriet Wadeson is an art therapist. She never intended to publish the journal and the artwork done during her cancer treatment, but began to think that it might be meaningful for others. For me, it definitely was.
I read Journaling Cancer during the four weeks between my abnormal mammogram and my biopsy results, which showed that I did not have cancer. While reading the book, I felt as if I were having conversations with a dear friend. I was drawn by her self-doubts, her occasional querulousness, her feeling let down at times by her partner, despite being so very grateful to her for her care. Harriet Wadeson does not mince words. She tells it like it was, the transcendent and the boring, the disgusting physical details of bowel troubles, the pain, fear, fatigue, nausea, and what helped her through: friends, family, and the ability to create. Ms. Wadeson writes with rare honesty, bringing the reader into a more vulnerable, real state. One cannot read Journaling Cancer with the mind alone. It involves the heart and the spirit too.
The book is accompanied by a CD of color images of the artwork that is an integral part of the book. As I viewed the CD, it was again like sitting with a friend as she told me why she chose particular image's for a page, and how she created them. Although Harriet Wadeson speaks of pain and suffering, the images are preponderantly beautiful, uplifting: flowers, nature, the strong leopard, a transforming butterfly, and Harriet Wadeson herself, with her long, abundant white hair, which she lost, then regrew differently.
Journaling Cancer would appeal to therapists, art therapists, and anyone working with someone with cancer, loving someone who has cancer, and perhaps someone living with cancer, although as Harriet Wadeson points out, it can be difficult to read about someone else's cancer experience while you are going through your own. --Jeanne Bereiter, MD, Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

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