New program helps Missoula cancer patients through art

Posted at 8:52 AM, Apr 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-24 10:52:25-04

MISSOULA – They paint and draw and pick out meaningful words on a page all while undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, and a new program in Missoula is aimed at easing their journey.

Teddi Nooney isn’t paying any attention to the nurse hooking up her chemotherapy treatment. She’s more interested in the bird she’s painting and that’s the point behind a nine-week pilot program at Community Medical Center and Living Art of Montana.

“Art is powerful. It has the power to shift your brain to a different place and to tap into those things you might not always think about or maybe that you’ve stepped away from or that are too hard to think about<" said Tracy Pohndorf with Living Art Montana.

It’s chairside art where people going through cancer treatment get what is often a much-needed distraction.

“You sit here for hours. Four to six hours and it’s something to distract you. Like the first project that we did you circled the words on a page that meant something to you and I went back and I looked at all the words I circled that day and thought, man! So many amazing words on this page that just touch my heart," Nooney told MTN News.

Nooney is fighting cancer for the third time, but this time it’s terminal. “The thought of not seeing them be married or have children of their own…it’s something I have a hard time with," Nooney said.

A few moments creating is a few moments she can think about the things and the people she loves– it’s a small gift to herself.

Mary Johnson didn’t really want to do an art project while she was going through radiation and forced herself to try it.

"And they told me to put a word on the page and the only word I could come up with was ‘empty’. They said think about it but that day, I just felt empty," Johnson said.

But that empty feeling turned into something else. It reminded her of her faith, "and the word hope came to mind. I ended up really liking what I did and so did they so when I was done, I had more hope," Johnson said.

The art projects don’t take long and they’re not complicated, but for Nooney what’s she creating is creating memories of her

“the first one, I framed it and it’s on my dining room table. And I hope with the second one my son can poke a hole in it and I can string a ribbon through it and hang it somewhere. It will be a nice reminder for them," Nooney said.

Living Art of Montana is a free program that is looking to expand to other hospitals and care facilities in the future.