A unique art-therapy technique helps breast-cancer patients and survivors celebrate their femininity...and reclaim their lives.
For each of these women, the journey will be different: some will have wide circles of support, others will go it alone; some will be diagnosed in early stages and be dealt positive prognoses, and others will not be as lucky. At some point, most of these women will feel betrayed by their own bodies. They will ask “Why me?” and find no rational answer. They may be forced to make decisions they never could have imagined making. And many will think about what their breasts mean to their femininity.
All of these women will be in search of physical healing—and some will be fortunate enough to find some emotional healing as well. Registered art therapist Maria Regina Lupo, MSA-ATR, sees every day the strength of creative expression in transforming patients’ outlooks. And as Creative Art Therapies Coordinator for Atlantic Integrative Medicine at Overlook and Morristown Memorial hospitals, she knew she had found a powerful tool for her breast-cancer patients when she came across a bra-decorating workshop aimed at helping women reconcile their feelings about their bodies and their diagnoses to reconnect with their femininity.
Next month, Lupo is proud to bring this program to Overlook. “Bring yourself and anyone you want, and a
bra you want to adorn,” she says. “It might be a new
one to represent a new phase in life. It might be a woman’s favorite, and she’s heartbroken to put it away or to have to wear something else. Maybe it’s one that her mother had. Maybe it’s one with personal significance to her.
“The bra is the transitional object that affords the therapy and healing to begin,” says Lupo. “We’re letting women share what it is to work with this intimate garment that they maybe will not be wearing, or wearing in a different way after treatment.”
On hand will be beads, sequins, feathers, charms, fabric paint, ribbon, lace—things associated with feminine imagery. There will also be markers for women to write mes- sages: to themselves, to their bodies, to the world. “One woman may choose to tear her bra to shreds. Another may adorn it in a goddess-like fashion,” explains Lupo. “They’re free to do whatever is appealing for them, whatever feels right. It’s phenomenal what comes out of people.”
More than an art-therapy session, Lupo says that she views this seminar as an opportunity for women to initiate a dialogue about breast cancer. “We want you to bring your daughter, to bring your relative—to face it,” she says. “When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, her daughters, cousins, mothers, aunts are frightened. This
helps to start communication.”
Says Lupo: “We put our undergarments in a drawer. We make sure they’re not exposed. But what we’re saying with this workshop is, ‘Don’t hide your undergarment. Show it. Embellish it. Come to terms with it.’ Because breast cancer can’t be covered up. It needs to be exposed.”