'Life-changing experience': Art therapy classes help cancer patients heal

A therapy class is helping cancer patients by putting a paintbrush in their hands. 

Art Therapy is offered at the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin's Clinical Cancer Center. And for Julia Barnes, she says the class returned a part of her that was missing. 

"It just reconnected me," she said. 

Barnes received a breast cancer diagnosis in August, but she has also battled two brain tumors in her life. 

"I just was sort of gone," she said. "There didn't feel like there was much of me left."

In October, she decided to try out the art therapy class that meets twice a week at the Clinical Cancer Center. 

"The connection that I was able to reform between my thoughts and what my body does and the expression of my thoughts has been, I can't even describe the benefit I've gotten from art therapy," she said. 

Her work now hangs alongside other patient art in a gallery. The hospital is holding an exhibition of the artwork May 1 from 4-6 p.m. 

"The artwork is reflective of people's experiences," said Carrie Danhieux-Poole, an art therapist at Froedtert. "So others who are witnessing that by visiting the gallery can connect and know they're not alone in what they're experiencing, going through cancer." 

Danhieux-Poole says anyone who has been touched by cancer can take the class, including caregivers. The class meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. 

Barnes now says her breast cancer diagnosis changed her life for the better, because it led her to these art therapy classes. 

"My daughters have just been delighted to see their mom back again," said Barnes. "It's been a life-changing experience." 

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