Teri Penski

Healing Through Art

May 22nd 2019

Teri Penski
Teri Penski

I hope you've never had chemo , but maybe you have, and unfortunately you understand what chemo brain is. Chemo brain is like a bad prolonged case of brain fog with a little dementia thrown in. For months after chemo I would look at my paint brushes, my paint and my paper and not conceive of how to paint. Just the thought of thinking about it was too much for me.

I've never climbed up the sheer vertical side of a mountain, but I know you need hand and foot holds in order to keep going. Not painting was, for me, like looking up at the mountain I needed to climb but not being able to find that place to get my first hold on the climb up. I so needed to be able to paint.

With that need in mind, I parked in Gilda's Club parking lot and while looking at the front door, felt hesitant to go in because I'm thinking of all the ways this could not work. I am thinking I am going to embarrass myself. I mean, I haven't been able to paint and Im sure I am going to pick up a paint brush and freeze. Also I've not ever sat in a room full of people that have had or are fighting cancer. So I'm wondering if they will make me feel more afraid and hopeless than I already am.

As usually happens, our fears bear no resemblance to reality. Fear is a jagged feeling, but what I felt upon entering the room and seeing Mary was just soft "ok-ness". Mary was truly magical. Her heart warming smile and soft voice had my hard jagged fear clattering to the floor and totally forgotten for the next hour and a half. Her invitation to paint was very encouraaging, no expectations. Her instructions were to put water on the paper, drop the paint into the water and to just watch. "How easy is this?", I thought. A desire to paint images of the flow of water became the most import thing in my world. I was obsessed. I felt no frustration in this style of painting. The paint brush was only to put water on the paper. The only decision was what colors to use.

And the most important thing happened.....I felt joy for the first time in many many months.