In light of Brain Tumour Awareness Month, the Patient and Family Advisory Council of the B.C. Cancer Agency has teamed up with a local art gallery to showcase the art of those affected by brain cancer.
Co-leading the event is co-chair of the council and cancer researcher Yaron Butterfield. In addition to working at the agency and volunteering with patients as part of an art therapy program that he helped develop last year, he is also a cancer survivor. In 2004, Butterfield was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common—and most aggressive—type of malignant brain tumour.
He recovered in 2006 and has been cancer-free since, but during his treatment, Butterfield, who says he’s always been an artist, used painting as a way to tap into his subconscious.
“Doing art can be so beneficial for anybody, but I find it has an added degree of efficacy in healing cancer patients, especially right after treatment,” said Butterfield in a phone interview with the Straight.
“It’s kind of hard to find where you stand and what your abilities are, and sometimes it’s hard to express yourself, depending on where you had the cancer and the treatment,” he said of the months that followed his chemotherapy and radiation.
Butterfield pioneered the agency’s art therapy program, which offers cancer patients an opportunity to express their artistic side with other patients and a therapist. He’s found it to be a very positive experience for participants.
“I do try and make the point that I think art is good for anyone. If someone is going through trauma, whether it’s cancer, the loss of a loved one, or a different disease, art is very calming and a positive thing to experience,” he said.
Butterfield also said that making art gave him a sense of accomplishment, “because you’re putting something out there rather than just having thoughts swirling around in your head”—something that he had struggled with while away from work during treatment.
The idea for an exhibition came during a Patient and Family Advisory Council meeting, while Butterfield and his colleagues were discussing the art therapy group.
“It eventually lead to, ‘why don’t we have an exhibition?’, so we put the call out to individuals that have been affected by brain cancer to send us their art,” he said. His colleagues Rosemary Cashman, Amy Rappaport, and Sher Hackwell played important parts in making the exhibition a reality.
Celebrating the creativity and resilience of those affected by a brain tumour diagnosis, Brain Cancer Got Me Thinking will feature the work of 30 patients, survivors, family members, and caregivers from across Canada.
Butterfield said the exhibition isn’t meant to be a fundraiser, but rather a way of creating awareness about brain tumours. He and his seven-year-old daughter will both have artwork in the exhibition, which will be on display at Visual Space Gallery (3352 Dunbar Street) from October 7 to 13.