For some, art is life. For those who come to North Coast Cancer Care for art therapy, art is a way tounderstand life.
The program provides cancer patients and their families, friends, and caregivers with a place to let go of the daily trials they suffer.
Dawn Freeman is theresident art therapist, but she doesn't view herself as their teacher -- she considersherself their friend.
"Art is good for processing feelings," said Freeman, who has more than 20 years of experience in her profession. "It's really not about the final product. It's about the process, about making sense of cancer and providing them with hope and inspiration."
Some days her art therapy room is filled with as many as 12 people. Other times, there might be only one.
On a recent Thursday, three budding artists sat around the table in the bright room.
At times, they silently reflected on their work.
When they broke the silence, the topics turned to painting, cancer, and life in general.
Justin Wilhelm, 9,experimented with clay and pastel crayons.
"Clay is easy to mold and it takes your mind off things when you're sad or worried," said Wilhelm, whose father suffers from cancer.
After creating several clay pieces, Wilhelm began to color an aquatic scene with two fish.
"I'm going out catfishing tonight," Wilhelm said. "With my dad and maybe my cousins. I like catching lots of different kinds of fish with him."
Julie Baumbick worked at the other end of the table on a watercolor and acrylic painting of roses. Baumbick, attending the workshop for the second time, said she wished she could have participated while going through chemotherapy.
"When you're (in the art room) for a couple hours, you don't think about what you've been through or what might happen," said Baumbick, whose lung cancer has been in remission for two years. "You just think about what you're doing."
Darlene Scales, a resident of Sandusky, has been coming to the program almost since its debut about a year ago at the cancer care center. She was working on her eighth piece, a painting of the shore.
"If I'm in pain, it goes away when I'm doing the painting," Scales said as her brush swept across the canvas. "I become very relaxed. It relieves a lot of tension."
As they painted, Freeman walked around the room offering encouraging comments to everyone.
"Different people come for different reasons," Freeman said. "I try to give a lot of control to the patients because there's so much you can't control with cancer. In their artwork, things come out that may not have come up before."
Nancy Beach, executive director of the North Coast Cancer Foundation, helped organize the art therapy program and is working on other activities such as yoga and scrapbooking.
"This is such an amazing, successful program," Beach said. "Patients who have never held a paintbrush before come in and make something beautiful. It's provided a lot of peace for so many people."