Markey Cancer Center honors those who have battled cancer by displaying art by or about them: Expressions of Courage

To celebrate National Cancer Survivorship Month, the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky held an art exhibit June 6 to showcase personal artistic expressions crafted by or in memory of a Markey patient whose battle had ended.

UK patient Phillip Meeks brought
a drawing by his daughter, inspired
by the story of his cancer treatment.

The Expressions of Courage event “honored the experiences of those who have battled cancer with a day of recognition and celebration,” a UK news release said.

“We sent out over 6,000 letters,” Cindy Robinson, a Markey nurse practitioner and one of the organizers, said in the release. “And we asked people for any type of creative modality that they wanted to share with us, to share their cancer journey, whether it be positive or negative.”

More than 30 artists responded and shared a vast array of talents, from paintings, sculptures and quilting to dancing, singing, and readings of poetry and short stories, just to name a few.

“The artwork is very moving and inspiring, and actually will bring tears to your eyes if you read some of the pieces,” Robinson said. “We have some pieces here from patients that are no longer with us, and we personally know those people.”

Shawna Cassidy Quan of Richmond was one of the survivors in attendance, having been diagnosed with four different primary cancers over 15 years. Her expression of courage was an essay about her struggles with her multiple diagnoses.

“You figure out the answers to a lot of your problems even while you’re sitting down writing,” Quan said in the release. “It’s just been a wonderful, therapeutic thing for me.”

Norton Cancer Center and Markey patient Phillip Meeks traveled nearly two hours from Jeffersonville, Ind., to attend the event. His art piece was a drawing by his daughter, who was inspired by the story of his treatment.

In 2012, Meeks’ was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which required a bone-marrow transplant to survive. The odds of getting one were not in his favor because as an African American, only 7 percent of the bone marrow registry is African-American, and as an adoptee he did not have any biological siblings or parents to be tested.

The day he was admitted to the hospital, Meeks said in the release that they found a token underneath his hospital bed: one side said “Believe in Miracles” while the other side said “Faith.”

“To me, that was God’s way of saying that I’m there with you, you know, don’t be scared,” Meeks said.

A donor match was found for him, and he received his life-saving transplant in January 2013.

Meeks, along with many survivors and their families, said that the Expressions of Courage event was not only a day to showcase talent, but a day that survivors could show their appreciation to the staff of Markey.

“I just want to give back,” Meeks said. “That’s my big thing. How can you thank so many people that are involved in saving your life? There’s not a gift that you can give that’s big enough. Hopefully this is my one little piece to say thank you for everything that everybody has done for me.”

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