Sharing Your Story
Creative ways to document your personal experiences
Sandy Hackett's life was just getting back
to normal after the death of her father from pancreatic cancer a few years earlier when she discovered a lump in her breast. With
a diagnosis of breast cancer, the last thing she wanted was for her kids, then 3 and 9, to worry about a similar outcome.
For Sandy Hackett and her son, art therapy provided an emotional release.
Photo by Edda Pacifico
An administrative assistant and office manager at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, Hackett was familiar with available therapies that complement
standard medical treatment. She continued working during her six months of treatment and made time for art therapy with U-M certified
art therapist Margaret Nowak.
A few of the pieces of art created by Hackett and her son.
Photo by Edda Pacifico
She also took materials home so her older son could express his feelings through art.
"We talked about the cancer," Hackett says. "We made little woven bags. I told him mommy made them, too, during her treatment."
For Hackett and her son, art therapy provided an emotional release. She remembers one project where she had to draw
faces to depict how she felt. One face was happy, as she put on a happy face at work to maintain normalcy. The other face
After receiving chemotherapy, radiation and five surgeries, Hackett has remained cancer-free for four years. She rarely spoke
about her cancer.
Then she was invited to attend a workshop called Digital Storytelling: Everyday Stories by Cancer Patients and Survivors, the
latest addition to the complementary therapies program offered by Legacy Therapist Sibel Ozer.
In addition to creating opportunities for expression, emotional or otherwise, the legacy program leaves each patient with
a finished product that gives meaning to their experiences.
"We don't want legacy work to connote the end of life because it is not limited to that," Ozer says. "We can work with
patients at any stage of a diagnosis or prognosis. We use legacy activities involving life review, storytelling and reminiscence for
Ozer and other complementary therapists from the Cancer Center's PsychOncology Program have done legacy work
with patients in a variety of settings. The team is collectively working to establish how it can be made available in the future
to more patients—from those in the infusion chair to the PsychOncology Clinic to three-day workshops.