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On Special Assignment: Cancer, Courage and Creativity - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

On Special Assignment: Cancer, Courage and Creativity

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MISSOULA - The impacts of cancer often continue long after treatment is over -- it's a hard-fought, emotional journey of survival

A glue gun can’t fight cancer, but maybe it can defeat it in other ways. Cancer survivors are finding themselves again as they get lost in their own originality at one Missoula warehouse.

“The great thing about art is that you can express whatever you want to the world or it can be an expression just for yourself," program director Tracy Pohndorf said.

Living Art of Montana has always been a place to create, share and heal. Some of the folks who attended a recent Cancer, Courage and Creativity workshop have been cancer free for years -- others, just months

“The first day we were all here, it wasn’t about the fact that we all had cancer. We all know that and had been through it so it’s powerful. It’s that unspoken connection and that sense of compassion that just kind of overlays the groundwork for everything to begin," leukemia survivor Hailey Kern said.

Cancer is tough and terrifying. Treatment takes months or years of your life -- and it becomes a priority often, at the expense of everything else. The workshop helps take cancer’s power away.

The women taking part are expressing what they’ve been through with reds and wires -- and words.

“Going through my cancer journey, I did everything with somebody. I was constantly surrounded by friends and family and I kind of lost sight of the joy I had," breast cancer survivor Laura Degele recalled. "Even though I had a wonderful support system, I didn’t have the me that I used to have when it comes to the creative side.”

The group is designing plaster masks of their own faces -- a very personal project.

“You're sitting here with this blank canvas, a very familiar blank canvas and then we decorate the mask and through that process, people have a chance to maybe express a side of their personalities or an experience that they're needing to express," Pohndorf said.

Kern’s mask is filled with words and she explained that one eye is closed on purpose, "I’m still kind of finding my voice and figuring out the unanswered questions -- the whys? But it’s becoming more clear.”

Degele’s mask represents herself as she was before and after cancer.

“I discovered that it’s good to do things by yourself with a group of -- and I’m getting emotional -- amazing people who understand exactly how I feel and you don’t get that with your friends and family unless they’ve gone through it. It’s a safe place and that was unexpected.

"Every time I come to this class, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s transformational and it always reaffirms that I know is true -- that we have resources within us. What we need to heal, life gives us," concluded Maribeth Rothwell of Living Art Montana.

It is indeed, living art

Cancer, courage and creativity is a workshop that is held twice every year.

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