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Art therapies help patients to cope with their cancer

Workshops an emotional boon

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

Art workshops aimed at helping empower cancer patients by allowing them to express emotions during their battle with the disease are being run by a leading charity.

Classes are run by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, formerly the Ulster Cancer Foundation.

Research has shown that 'art journaling' therapy can improve physical, mental and emotional health.

A new series of four free workshops will start in September. The classes use art and writing to explore experiences after a diagnosis.

Leo McGarry, counsellor at Cancer Focus NI, said it can help people express anxiety or stress.

"We know that cancer affects everyone differently," he said. "It can make people feel that they have lost control, increase feelings of isolation and can often reduce a person's self-esteem."

Mary Deery from Newtownabbey was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and needed a mastectomy.

Then in 2010 she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The 59-year-old said the art journaling programme has helped her express and understand how she was feeling.

"What I love about the art journaling is that it's time out – time for just you," she said.

Those who take part are guided through the workshops and given different exercises to complete.

Mary said: "I found that through my drawing, writing and sometimes scribbling, that I am able to better articulate and understand how I'm feeling and get it off my chest without having to burden someone else, like a family member, with my emotions."

The confidential workshops run between 11am and 2pm on September 3, October 29, November 26 and December 17 at Cancer Focus NI, Eglantine Avenue, Belfast. If you would like to book a place telephone 028 9066 3281 or email: care@cancerfocusni.org

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