On March 3rd, over 125 cancer survivors came together for Art of Life’s Annual Gathering for ALL Cancer Survivors to enjoy a meaningful day of connection, laughter, celebrating, and painting! This special event is known as the “Paula Project,” named after Paula Doherty, a local survivor who believed in the Art of Life mission and wanted to ensure that survivors receive ongoing lifetime support.
Let me tell you a story about a cancer survivor named Jane who attended the Paula Project for the first time.
Jane convinced herself to go, even though she didn’t know anyone else who was going. She made it all the way through check-in, where she saw people everywhere hugging, chatting and catching up – it seemed like they all knew each other and she was there alone. Feeling overwhelmed, Jane turned around and headed back in the direction she came. She was almost to the exit when she was stopped by a fellow survivor, who knew her from years ago. There was an immediate connection and Jane was invited to sit next to her and her friends. Jane nervously agreed and decided to stay.
Over the course of the next two hours everything changed. Our Executive Director, Jenelle Higton, opened the day with a reminder that this project, this day, was for each of the survivors in the room. She challenged them to put aside any distractions and allow themselves to enjoy every moment of the art project while connecting with other survivors. The project this year was “reverse glass painting” and involved drawing an outline of an image on the back side of the glass, then adding different layers of paint, so that when the glass was turned over a beautiful image would be revealed.
Jane began her project and started connecting with the women at her table. They shared the good, the bad, and the ugly of cancer. They talked about things other than cancer like motherhood, careers, family and friends. Jane began to realize that she didn’t have to explain her answers or comments, because these women have lived it, just like her, and she feels a weight lifted. She continues painting, recognizing that she hasn’t done anything for herself since her diagnosis and is reminded what joy feels like. At the end of the day she is so glad she stayed and shares, “I can’t believe I almost missed this life changing experience.”
This is in fact a true story from a cancer survivor whose name has been changed to respect her privacy and one of many AMAZING stories that came as a result of the Art of Life’s Paula Project.
Since then, we have heard the stories of many survivors who walked in to this event with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Each donation and sponsor made this day possible as a gift for cancer survivors. Each volunteer played a part in making people feel comfortable throughout the day. Every single person that was involved in the Paula Project ensured that each survivor left with a huge smile on their face, a new comfort, and hope knowing that they never walk alone.
The Art of Life is committed to a mission of inspiring people impacted by cancer to connect and heal through creative expression. We believe that cancer requires personal, lifelong support that reaches past the physical scars and sheds light upon the emotional and spiritual needs of the heart, mind and soul. Thank you for helping to make this event possible and for making a different in the lives of local cancer survivors. We hope you will take the time to read some of the feedback shared from other survivors who attended the 2018 Paula Project…
“Art of Life opens up new doors and gives you hope and courage. You feel the love!”
“The Art of Life is one of the most important things I’ve done since getting breast cancer. It helped me heal.”
“Art of Life gives a different perspective to an awful situation.”
“Art of Life has given me a voice, a positive experience in a difficult journey. The light it provides can make a much-needed difference.”
“Art of Life has been a bright light and one of many blessings and positive things that have come out of the negativity of cancer.”