Cancer survivors learn to express themselves through art

Ronald O’Neil works on a painting during a new art class for cancer survivors held at the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam

Lisa Ebanks is a new emerging artist for the Cayman Islands Visual Arts Society, who can usually be found painting at the Open Canvas Art Night at KARoo in Camana Bay. Since 2011, her paintings and unique mixed-media artworks have been exhibited at various venues all over Grand Cayman.

But if she had not been diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2011, she said, she might never have become the artist she is today.

“Having cancer made me become a better artist, and it made me follow my dreams,” Ms. Ebanks said.

Teacher Lisa Ebanks shows an example of her art to give her students inspiration. – Photos: Kelsey Jukam
Teacher Lisa Ebanks shows an example of her art to give her students inspiration. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam

Now, she is hoping to share her passion for art with other cancer survivors and cancer patients, and is leading a six-week long art class through the Cayman Islands Cancer Society as part of its wellness and community outreach programming.

“I wanted to give back, especially to cancer survivors,” Ms. Ebanks said. “I know that you have to find yourself after cancer – you’re a new person after cancer.”

She hopes that other cancer survivors and cancer patients will benefit from the therapeutic and meditative effects of painting, and find relief and peace by focusing on something creative.

The free weekly art class, called “Art Through Cancer, Cancer Through Art,” began April 7 and runs through May 12, and each week attendees create works around a different theme.

Ms. Ebanks said that all of the students are novice artists.

“This is the first time in my life I’ve used a paintbrush,” said student Ronald O’Neil. “I thought the class was intriguing, and that I might as well try.”

Mr. O’Neil and the other students are learning how to use basic art utensils, mix paints and find inspiration from nature and their experiences.

Loralee Wood’s first painting is a bright, colorful depiction of what she thinks of as a second home: the Cancer Society building.

“This house is like part of my family,” Ms. Wood said.

Cancer survivor Loralee Wood painted the Cancer Society building in her colorful piece of art.
Cancer survivor Loralee Wood painted the Cancer Society building in her colorful piece of art. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam

She said the art class is “a way to relax your mind, and makes you think positive.”
That positive thinking, Ms. Wood and other art class attendees agree, is essential to coping with a cancer diagnosis.

“Everyone needs to keep a positive attitude in life, whatever you’ve gone through, no matter how great or small,” art class attendee Phyllis White Leachman said.

Ms. Leachman, a breast cancer survivor, said the art class is a way for her to keep herself occupied, and “a way of giving thanks to God for all that he’s brought you through.”

Ms. Ebanks said she hopes that some of the artwork the class creates will be on display and sold at the annual cancer survivors’ dinner in June.

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