Art Portrays Cancer Survivor’s Journey in New ACS Book

Author Sally Loughridge did not set out to write a book. Her words and paintings, now the latest book published by the American Cancer Society as Rad Art: A Journey Through Radiation Treatment, were her way of surviving 6 ½ weeks of daily radiation treatment for breast cancer. Loughridge explained, “I didn’t write the book. What I did to help myself became a book.”

Loughridge, an active and healthy artist, teacher, and psychologist, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Although she had a lot of support from her husband, children, students, and friends, Loughridge struggled with feelings of anger, fear, and sadness over her diagnosis and treatment. In her former psychology practice, she had often used art to help patients express themselves. After her diagnosis, she found she needed help taking control of her negative emotions.

Loughridge decided on a strategy: Every day after her hour-long drive from radiation treatment in Bath, Maine, she would go to her barn studio and paint. She allowed herself only 20 minutes per session, a very different method from the way she had been used to working. Loughridge said, “I was going to be in charge instead of my body, which I felt had run amok.” In addition to the paintings, Loughridge jotted down how she was feeling each day. The result is an illustrated journal of Loughridge’s cancer journey through 33 oil paintings.

A way to help others

Loughridge had her first inkling that her work could help someone else when she brought some of her paintings to one of her radiation appointments, at the request of some of the medical staff. Another patient in the waiting room asked to see them. When Loughridge showed them to the woman, she burst into tears. She turned to her husband, and said, “This is exactly how I feel. But I couldn’t tell you.”

Loughridge said, “You can be creative in whatever modality feels comfortable to you as a strategy to get through something difficult. If you can get the negative feelings outside of yourself – get it expressed – it can take some of the negative power away.”

Rad Art: A Journey Through Radiation Treatment is one of many books published by the American Cancer Society and available for purchase through the American Cancer Society online bookstore.

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