Cancer survivors and loved ones finish first mosaic at Cancer Center

A middle-aged woman walks up to her husband in the waiting room at the St.Vincent Cancer Center. She has just received the results from his PET scan, and it’s finally time to go home.

Her husband, waiting for her return, has been placing colorful squares on a mosaic in progress for the Center’s lobby. On her arrival, he tells her how quickly the wait has passed laying tiles, listening to and sharing with other cancer survivors and their loved ones.

The couple stays and works on the mosaic three more hours before driving home to Terre Haute.

Art therapist Joani Rothenberg said these are common experiences for people who were a part of creating the mosaic.

“When your hands are busy, the mind can have space to let go of the thoughts and feelings that have been stored,” Rothenberg said. “Making art in this setting creates a safe space to let go of hardships, worries and fears.”

Funded by the Women of Hope, more than 75 people—aging from two to 90 years old—contributed to the mosaic. It was such a success that the Women of Hope are planning to support the creation of more mosaics for the inpatient and outpatient cancer treatment areas.

Thanks to a LIVESTRONG Artist-in-Residence grant, Rothenberg recently began holding Open Art Studios for drop-in art projects for cancer survivors and will help oncology inpatients create art at their bedside. Rothenberg also painted a magnificent mural in the St.Vincent Indianapolis Hospital lobby.

Rothenberg said time loses its linear quality when people work on the mosaic. Some stay for hours. Some come over their lunch hour and forget to eat.

She shared people undergoing cancer treatment often come to the mosaic table angry, anxious or depressed and leave feeling relaxed, focused and at peace.

“After working on the mosaic, patients are much less anxious and scared,” Rothenberg said. “And they share their feelings with each other. One says, ‘I’m worried about this,’ and another says, ‘I know how you feel. This is what I did when I went through that.’”

Rothenberg encourages her mosaic artists to stand on the second floor of the Cancer Center above the lobby and peer down for a bird’s eye view of their creation. She likened this broadened perspective to the cancer journey.

“When you’re in treatment, you see just this little piece of what you are dealing with right in this moment. But when you step back, you realize this is just one piece of the whole picture, and you are part of a much larger community of caring.”

Thanks to the Women of Hope, look for more mosaic creations at the outpatient Cancer Care Center and on the 6th floor oncology unit. 

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