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Lombardi Draws on Art Therapy for Awareness Week


July 24, 2009 – Three years ago, Teresa Hamman, now age 8, began to complain of pain in her elbow. Doctors had concluded the pain came from a recent fall. But, as the pain persisted, her parents suspected something was seriously wrong.

“The doctors kept saying she was fine,” says Teresa’s mother, Maria Hamman. “But I demanded they take another X-ray and look closer.”

When they did, the doctors found an osteosarcoma tumor in her shoulder and referred her to the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Sarcomas, rare cancers of the connective tissues -- nerves, muscles and bones, account for 15 to 20 percent of childhood cancer diagnoses and about 1 percent of adult cancer diagnoses. Unfortunately, as in Teresa’s case, sarcomas are often misdiagnosed.

“When the doctors told us Teresa had sarcoma, I had no idea what it was,” says Hamman. Teresa underwent surgery to remove the tumors, and then received nine months of chemotherapy at Georgetown. Today, Teresa is in remission and doing well. Part of her recovery may have to do with the art program at Lombardi.

Healing Through Art

Through Lombardi’s Arts and Humanities program, patients may use the arts to help cope with their illnesses, relieve stress and communicate through creative self-expression. On July 24, Lombardi recognized the 2009 International Sarcoma Awareness Week, July 18-26, with a series of art projects.

“The art program at Lombardi was incredibly helpful,” says Hamman. “Teresa loves art, and she really looked forward to doing something fun when she had to come in for this painful treatment.”

Studies show that making art contributes to a positive quality of life for patients, said Nancy Morgan, director of Lombardi’s Arts and Humanities program. “Feeling better emotionally may improve how patients feel physically,” she said.

For the adult clinic, the Arts and Humanities Program offered a special session of “Art & Conversation” with weaver Carol Bittner. Meanwhile, young sarcoma patients, survivors and friends worked on sarcoma awareness art projects in the Pediatric Art and Play area of Lombardi.

Jessie Masterson, a pediatric art therapist at Georgetown University Hospital, and Mary Lane, a pediatric social worker at Georgetown, organized the day’s activities in the pediatric clinic.

“Our patients with sarcoma have spent time coloring pictures of the ‘sarcoma guy’ with a shoe stomping him out. It’s a good way for them to express how they feel,” Masterson said.

Participants decorated the shoes with colorful patterns and the names of things that could help beat sarcoma, including research, chemotherapy and family.

Lombardi is one of 28 medical centers worldwide to sponsor 2009 Team Sarcoma events to help stomp out the disease. The annual event is part of the Team Sarcoma Initiative, internationally coordinated activities that promote sarcoma awareness while raising money for sarcoma research, clinical trials and patient and family services.

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