Friday, February 19, 2010

Arts & medicine (by Suzie)

She was an angel with an autoharp. Like many people, I had struggled with sleep in the hospital. She offered to play, and I told her I didn't know if I could stay awake. She laughed and explained she was there to help, not perform a concert. After a few minutes, I snored along with her, in a duet.

As if in a dream, I remember another woman playing for me.

During my week at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, the Arts in Medicine staff worked wonders. One man, a friend, maneuvered his double bass into the crowded room. I cried when he played "Evening of Roses," just as another sarcoma patient did several years ago. We think of it as her song. I hadn't cried in a long while, and I made him hold me as I sobbed. That was healing, too.

In addition to music, the program includes art, poetry, journaling, dance and other movement. Most of the staff and volunteers are women, and most of the oncologists are men. No surprise there. In the West, healing and the arts have been widely practiced by women, even though men have predominated in the higher-paying and more-prestigious jobs in both fields.

I'm glad to see bastions of conventional medicine offering other ways of healing, and I hope patients seek them out. Don't wait for your doctor to recommend them because he may know little about them. If your hospital has no formal program, invent your own. Bring your own music, notebooks and art materials. As Dr. Jimmie Holland says:
Not all medicine comes in a bottle.