Tripler cancer patients reflect with ‘Oncology on Canvas’

| May 21, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Jan Clark
Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs

Seven-year-old oncology patient Kayleigh creates a masterpiece as mom Lisa Andres looks on. Kayleigh was one of more than 100 participants in Tripler Army Medical Center’s “Oncology on Canvas” event held May 7 and 8.HONOLULU — When the Tripler Army Medical Center’s 10th floor conference room is transformed into an art studio for “Oncology on Canvas,” bypassers are caught up in the emotions of melancholy, joy and hope. 

The expressive arts program is one of many therapeutic methods Tripler staff uses to give cancer patients the opportunity to reflect on their cancer journey. 

This year, more than 100 patients, family members and friends joined Tripler nurses, social workers and psychologists to share their experiences through art. 

“As the only military treatment facility that has this program, we are proud to be in our fourth year, providing an alternative method for our patients to help deal with the many challenges they face,” said Dr. Pat Nishimoto, oncology clinical nurse, TAMC.

Kayleigh Andres, the seven-year-old daughter of retired Navy commander Robert and Lisa Andres, is one of those patients. Kayleigh was medevaced from Japan to Tripler in February, and her treatments are expected to last at least two years.

“We expect to live here for the duration of Kayleigh’s treatment,” Lisa said. “My husband and I are both civil servants and are transferring jobs to remain in Hawaii. Kayleigh is well enough to have started first grade about four weeks ago.” 

While Kayleigh hasn’t experienced any serious side effects, such as nausea, her life now revolves around her chemotherapy sessions, having blood drawn and taking medication.

“I don’t think she understands the gravity of cancer, which is actually good … she takes it with a smile,” Lisa said. “She is so brave — braver than I am, so I try.

“The hardest thing for me has been finding out. You think the world basically is over, and it’s a constant struggle for me to remind myself that it is not,” she continued. “So like before she was diagnosed, I just try to make sure she is happy. Being here today makes her happy, so we are here.”

The ever-expanding Oncology on Canvas program welcomed Punahou Junior ROTC cadets for the first time, May 7 and 8, who volunteered their time to help with the event. Nishimoto’s excitement at their participation was evident.

“To have these young people come in and help out is appreciated,” she said. “They’ve added tremendously to this year’s event.” 

Within days of the event, Nishimoto flew to San Diego to attend the National Oncology Nurses’ Society Congress and present Tripler’s nursing care program for cancer patients. 

Nishimoto and colleagues have submitted a research proposal to the Scientific Research Committee for a study on how participants perceive using artwork to express their emotions. The proposal is now before the Human Use Committee for evaluation. If approved, a study will begin here this year.

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