Doodling for Therapy to Cope with Cancer (and Life, Really)

Have you tried meditating before? I did when I learned qi gong. Time slowed down 1000x when I tried. Then a friend bought me a coloring book for me to kill time during chemo. It took my mind off but I didn’t do much of it because it’s tiring to use colour pencils. I tried doodling, courtesy of National Cancer Society Malaysia and Kanvas Space. Here’s what happened.

Kanvas Space doodle for Therapy
Shelly from Kanvas Space sharing about their purpose and work.
Kanvas Space doodle
Admiring Shelly’s doodle printed on a cushion.

So doodling can also be a form of meditation because it takes your mind off things as you focus on the task at hand. Kanvas Space wanted to introduce doodling as therapy to us, the young cancer survivors, to help us to cope with the complex emotions of dealing with cancer, while there are also other things that can help with this, like receiving therapeutic massages so people can recover their energies and feel better. Visit website to find more about this massages and the best place to receive them.

I’ve never doodled before. I always thought it’s interesting but never thought that adults like me who barely have experience can actually doodled. We proved ourselves wrong during the doodling workshop.

We were given 100% freedom to play with shapes and patterns. Everybody started very differently. Some started with a shape at the center. Others started with a line across the page. Some started with thick lines. And others thin.

I had a lot in my head during the last 12 hours prior to the workshop. I was struggling with managing expectations after cancer. And I was disheartened for a friend facing cancers in the family. Very naturally, I had a lot to express in my doodles.

In fact, Shelly from Kanvas Space commented that I perhaps was overthinking as I doodled. Every stroke in my doodles had meaning. I wanted to tell stories through my art.

Cancer doodle
My first doodle. It started with a tear drop.

I started with a tear drop for my first doodle. But I immediately knew I wanted to tell a story of growing out of despair so I went on to draw a wave to separate the storm and bandages from the flower and sprouts. My tear drop doubles as a bud that’s alive, and in fact, there are two bees that escaped from this bud for new adventures, hopefully ones with brighter stories. I incorporated my icon as well, which is a sprout. The same sprout is the favicon of this blog.

F cancer doodle
My second doodle. I started with an asterisk.

I wanted to say f*ck cancer. I don’t remember using the swear word before cancer but cancer is a challenging thing. It’s a frustrating thing. It doesn’t just scare you during the fight. It haunts you after the survival. So I wanted to say “F*ck cancer. I want to relax and eat pizzas and ice creams (once in a while).” I wanted to amplify the conflicting emotions of surviving cancer thus the vulgarity and joyous emoticons in 1 doodle.

I’m surprised how much a doodle can tell about a person. My doodle was very different from others. I was very organized, deep in thoughts and detailed. I lack in the department of letting loose and going free.

I brought home 2 pens from the workshop. Hoping that I’d doodle more and observe how my personality and emotions evolve over time.

It’s interesting how the first timers (myself included) didn’t have a clue what to expect from this workshop but ended up bringing pens home because we want to continue this. In fact, the survivor who struggled the longest to ink his first line was actually the one who exclaimed “Nooooo” when we were asked to stop.

Thank you National Cancer Society Malaysia and Kanvas Space for this month’s young survivors group’s activity! We surely learned a valuable coping skill.

P/s Know of any cancer patients or survivors aged 18 to 35 years old who can benefit from the network of young cancer survivors? Drop a note to connect!

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