Art As Therapy From the Bladder Cancer Community

In celebration of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month 2024, we invited members of our BCAN community to share the artwork that has provided solace and expression during their or their loved ones’ bladder cancer journeys. We have been deeply moved by the profound talents and perspectives revealed by our BCAN family.

We invite you to explore these incredible works of art. Simply click on the + symbol name to see each work of art as well as a description by the artist.

William Dere

Submitter: William Dere, California

About their art: “Chinese Brush Painting requires focus and concentration that both calms your mind and brings me joy. It is a mindfulness activity that is therapeutic for me.”

David Guttman

Submitter: David Guttman, Florida

About their art: “My photographic hobby engages my mind and body in a wonderful creative element. – I get to ‘Walk About and Smell the Flowers’ or ‘create’ images with light. I mainly photograph nature however I’m always on the look out for interesting subjects. I joined a photographic club 7 years ago which enhances the experience by sharing and learning from others and gives me an opportunity for social interaction. When I return home I can spend hours – that is enjoyable hours editing and sharing my photographs with friends, family, and other photographers. BTW I’ve yet to meet another bladder cancer survivor in my photographic world.”

Caroline T.

Submitter: Caroline

T., Massachusetts

About their art:

Acrylic painting has always been a great outlet for my emotions. Sometimes when I cannot articulate how and what I am feeling, I am able to capture my feelings on canvas.

This picture along with the piece of jewelry and the key helped me identify and express my feelings in a way in which words would not do it justice.


Submitter: Jerome, California

About their art: Expressing the 7 principles of mindfulness in healing in this book provided me with a platform for helping others as a health coach and mentor.

Click the title to download the Seven Principles (pdf).

Brian Billings

Submitter: Brian Billings, New York

About their art: “This painting ‘I Am The Light’ was a manta prayer before my Radical Cystectomy. I am delighted to say I am NED for almost three years now.”

About their art: “This painting “Blessing” was made during my BCG treatments.”



About their art: “My reflections on managing cancer side effects and post-surgical follow-ups.”

Click here for a larger version.

Janet L.

Submitter: Janet L., Maine

About their art: As an art form, home-crafted soapmaking presents challenges, imagination, planning, anticipation, and a sense of completion. It’s also just plain fun! Each of these takes me both outside and inside of myself. Each stage is stimulating. As someone whose professional life was highly structured, soapmaking is freeing. Even though the end product is, in reality, just a bar of soap, the making of it calms and settles me and gives me something to look forward to. It has been a hugely positive influence on my cancer journey!

Duke Dahlin

Submitter: Duke Dahlin, California

About their art: After my radical cystectomy with Ileal conduit operation on Dec. 5, 2023, I needed a distraction. For me, art has always been a way for me to relax. The idea behind this piece was to depict my mom and her 8 siblings growing up on the island of Oahu. Kalihi Valley. Their mother died at the age of 29, and my mother had to drop out of school(6th grade) to take care of her siblings. They grew up in a tough neighborhood. Growing up in Hawaii, my mom taught us how to live off the land. As a family, we all swam, speared fish, set fish nets, and hiked up to the mountains to gather passion fruit, guava, mangoes, etc. It was an amazing childhood.

In 2022, my plan was to attempt a solo English Channel swim in August 2023. If I was successful, I would’ve been the oldest English Channel swimmer. However, on September 9, 2020, I went through a coronary angiogram procedure. During the procedure, they discovered that 95% of my left artery was clotted. So, they inserted a stent to open up the artery to allow blood flow to my heart. As you can imagine, I was shocked and happy at the same time. I was shocked because I’ve been so used to being healthy all these years. I’ve always exercised, mainly swimming my entire life. After the procedures, the doctors told me I was fit enough to attempt a solo English Channel swim. I disagreed. Something wasn’t right! So, I decided if I couldn’t attempt a solo swim, put together a 6-person mixed relay team (70+ age group). By December 2022, I started to ask around at the SF Dolphin Swimming & Boating Club. In June/July 2023, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I didn’t want to stop training for the EC Relay. My doctors agreed that I should continue training and attempt the EC. On August 16, 2023, our Mixed Relay team “Old Goats” successfully completed the English Channel in 15 hours & 09 minutes. This piece expresses each person’s swim across the EC. Currently, we’re the oldest American Mixed English Channel Relay Team. I started my bladder cancer treatment in September 2023. I started chemo infusions from September through December. On Dec. 5th, I had a radical cystectomy with ileal conduit. I’m still in recovery, and feeling so much better.

Alan Schwartz

Submitter: Alan Schwartz, New York

About their art: It enables me to examine my feelings and then express them in an articulate manner.

You wonder if there’s a rhyme to the reason
you’re hoping, no praying for more than a shrug
how we’re here then we’re gone
it’s just like magic.
I’ve died a thousand times before
but never like this, this one took.
Saw sights there usually go unseen
knowing more now than I care to.
Yielding to the inevitable
I reveled in its icy embrace then let go.
Peering into the opaque Abyss
I passed through the place where the lost are found,
there the precipice claims its own
but not this shadow…not this day.
I woke again, in a deluge and felt unclean.
I knew the man who closed his eyes
wasn’t the same who opened them.
And realized the metronome pauses for no note.
Best to keep the beat or be gone.

Doug Cappiello

Submitter: Doug Cappiello

About their art: Learning to paint has been a wonderful experience for me. When I am painting, I am fully present in the art, and I turn on my creativity. I am not thinking about any problems in the past or future, I am living in the moment as I watch the art come to life.

Kathy H.

Submitter: Kathy H.

About their art: Taking pictures is my go to therapy. I especially like the beauty, solitude and spirituality one can capture in a brilliant sunrise or sunset. No place provides better opportunities to feed your soul than Lahaina, Maui.


Submitter: Lenore, Texas

About their art: I enjoy watercolor and it’s fluidity. It has been a release to be able to focus on art instead of health issues. The mindfulness associated with painting is similar to meditation and its benefits. I especially love nature and its beauty both large and small.


Submitter: Greg in California

About their art: This is a Celtic Dara knot. symbolic oak roots represent resilience and strength. This design is attached to my backpack and goes with me to all my treatments.

Nadine Robbins-Laurent

Submitter: Nadine Robbins-Laurent

About their art: Engaging on a path of creativity and art has been my sanctuary in the storm. Facing bladder cancer, each brushstroke became a stroke of resilience, and every color chosen, a testament to hope. The canvas bore witness to my challenges, and in turn, offered solace. It is not about the outcome. It is the process of being creative that does the trick. With every bladder instillation and cystoscopy, art stood by me, not just as a distraction, but as a profound coping mechanism, transforming my worry and fear into purpose and my stress into strokes of serenity.


Submitter: Michael

About their art: Woodworking saved me. After the surgeries in 2008, I needed something I could do with my hands, and kept my mind challenged. What began as a hobby turned into a profession. I’m in a couple of galleries, I teach classes sponsored by the galleries, and I source the woods I use myself. I use only salvaged, spalted hardwoods native to my area. From coffee tables, to wall art, to sculptures and commission work the healing of the Woodworking process has been the mental and physical cure.


John A.

Submitter: John A., Pennsylvania

About their art:

I created this painting with the intention of enabling hope and inspiration in the viewer through the image and these words.

Life is a continuous process of Rebirth

Born again and again
To new beginning
To new opportunities
To new possibilities
And, to healing
All, for the potential of Growth
From the first to the last — and Beyond.


I finished this painting (Peace within — Chaos) at the height of the pandemic with the intention of enabling the viewer to reach a sense of calm.


Submitter: Paul, from Virginia

About their art: I wrote this poem “Just a boy” as a gift of gratitude before I was diagnosed with cancer. A copy of the poem was gifted back to me and hung in my bathroom. It became a point of comfort and healing for me as I went through my surgeries and treatment. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

I am just a boy but that is enough.
I am lonely
With a few friends, and I just met them.
I am full of many questions, some have more than answers, and that’s enough.
Kind – is enough,
I am not my brother, I am not my father, you are not your sister you are not your
Delivered to this valley limping or dancing as you are is enough.
Imagining the beyond and focusing on the delicious is enough,
Start now – that’s enough.
One expression of faith is enough.
Silent loving and loved existence is enough.
Standing on this sacred here in need of a prayer but not a blessing – is enough.
Knowing it’s great to be grateful is enough.
A cup of tea and the moon soaring on a flight of humility is enough.
As tears meet comfort,
Being lost and always finding home is just enough.

Patrice C.

Submitter: Patrice C.

About their art: The process of therapy during your bladder cancer treatment wavers from treatment to treatment. I myself find myself staring at the painting I painted.
Put me at peace with the world as I stared at the ocean waves I painted, hovering on the sand dunes and thinking that the lighthouse was out there looking for me on my journey through the cancer treatments.


Nancy Evans

Submitter: Nancy Evans

About their art: Painting can be like a meditative state for me and I can get ‘lost’ in time and forget anything that is bothering me — like dealing with bladder cancer. I enjoy painting a variety of images but I find abstracts wonderful to paint. This image was completed using acrylic paints and is named What A Jolt.

Jannette Fletcher

Submitter: Jannette Fletcher, from Texas

About their art: Once I found out I had cancer, I needed something to focus on other than the cancer and what could happen. I was so blessed to discover Cindy Briggs a national watercolorist. I take lessons online from Cindy. She has always been encouraging as she teaches. The painting gives me a chance to practice patience while I am learning something new. I am so thankful for Cindy Briggs and her wonderful classes.


Lynn J.

Submitter: Lynn J., Washington

About their art: Painting relaxes me and I am more in the moment. Creating something beautiful is therapeutic for me. I seem to naturally paint things that are serene. This painting is inspired by a photo I took of a trail I used to walk with two dogs.

Karla Lonergan

Submitter: Karla Lonergan, South Carolina

About their art: This is a painting of our son Kevin who lost his courageous battle with bladder cancer at age 26. His younger sister, Kenna, painted it of him and his dog. She assured him she would keep his dog in the family and not to worry about him. She did just that. This painting gives us comfort.


Submitter: Christine in Virginia

About their art: I write poems for each step of my journey.

Cancer……… Cancer
That cannot be,
You cannot possibly mean me.
The tumor that you see,
Looks like a cyst to me.
Chemo., surgery, BCG,
Oh no, this is way too much for me.
As I left the room,
I had a sense of doom.
Tears rolled down my face,
As I realized I entered the cancer race.
November 18th, 2022 was the day,
My life changed in a significant way.
I sat and stared at the phone,
Scared and alone.
The hardest part for me that day,
Was to tell my teenage daughter and my mom that cancer had come my way.
My dog stayed by my side,
As I cried, cried, cried.
And then all a sudden I knew,
What I had to do.
Another minute I would not give,
Wondering whether or not I would live.
Each moment is a gift you see,
From God to you and me.
Cancer is rough,
But our God is tough.
I am never alone,
As long as God is on the throne.
I will be joyful each day,
Because cancer cannot take that away.

This poem is to say thank you to BCAN for all that you do.

Oh no,
Where do I go?
I need information you see,
To advocate for me.
I Google this and I Google that,
But really I would like to sit and chat.
The BCAN web page suddenly appeared,
And with that, my anxiety cleared.
On this site, I could see,
There were many people just like me.
Advice and information with just a click,
Or I could watch a video flick.
Support was available online or on the phone,
I knew I was no longer alone.
A conversation with a BCAN friend before surgery the next day,
Gave me hope and helped my fears melt away.
Whenever I don’t know what to do,
I know BCAN is there to get me through.
Thank you for everything you do,
I could not get through bladder cancer without you.

Nanci W.

Submitter: Nanci W.

About their art: There is so much I appreciate about doing analog collage. Creating the art is engaging in both a sensory and a cognitive way. I enjoy looking at and touching the papers as I move them on (and off) the page. I am playing and I am problem-solving at the same time. I always have more to learn about myself and the art form and its techniques.

Susan M.

Submitter: Susan M.

About their art: For me, paper weaving is an art form that requires precision and concentration. It is the product of patience and curiosity and sometimes can be meditative. Paper weaving speaks to my artistic interests while offering a respite from everyday concerns.

Katie B.

Submitter: Katie B. who lives in Washington state.

About their art: This was crotchet by my Nana who is the wife of my Pappie (grandfather) who is currently battling bladder cancer. We could watch her for hours working on all sorts of projects. He would laugh when she would mess up and have to start over on her projects since there would be a big pile of yarn on the floor and she would start talking to herself. Watching her crotchet or knit would bring such peace to him. He still uses the blankets she made to help comfort her during the chemo he gets.

I am submitting this picture of a 1940s car for my grandfather. He has rebuilt this car and just finished it during part of his treatment. His doctors said to keep being active and move around so the car was his project. He or I (with supervision from him on his more tired days). The car was finished last spring and was able to be in car shows this summer.

Dorothy De La Garza

After my September 2016 bladder cancer diagnosis (T2 MIBC), I continued teaching in my eighth grade classroom, taking off only chemotherapy days at Texas Oncology . My writing assignment to students was a “Sit, Stare, Scribble” exercise, observing a setting in their lives and describing it. On one chemo appointment, my husband and I arrived a half-hour early. Nurses had not checked patients into the infusion clinic with its Halloween holiday decorations. I decided to jot down my impressions and describe my chemotherapy scene like I had asked my students to do their observations. Here’s my short vignette that inspired me along with BCAN patient booklets and webinars on my medical marathon. 

Talking Cancer T-shirts 

Orange and black banners and cut-outs of Halloween pumpkins, skeletons, black cats, and  spooky ghosts interrupt the simplicity of the long beige entrance walls. This Party Warehouse décor  contrasts the otherwise calm, office-like atmosphere. Behind the desk, a receptionist in a pink t-shirt  scans her computer, shuffles papers, and greets coworkers wearing identical shirts. Inside the adjoining  larger room, twenty-four comfortable, subdued teal recliners line upright like silent soldiers on the brown-patterned flooring. Mounted from the acoustic ceilings, twelve darkened RCA TV screens hover  in between the rows of chairs waiting for viewers. Rectangular windows along three sides of this  expanse welcome morning’s early light and tall, leafy trees outside. On a nearby counter, Styrofoam mannequin heads display a variety of wig shades and styles.  

One first might think this wide-open space houses a high-volume nail salon or luxury spa.  However, no pedicure basins are attached below the cushy recliners awaiting water. Instead several  lightweight aluminum IV poles mounted on a mobile, five-wheeled base patiently wait for customers to  come. Their sleek control console bears the brand name Braun Infusomat© Space.  

A young pink-uniformed woman approaches the room’s first arrival, an older woman lounging comfortably in the last chair. Engrossed in her Dell laptop, she seems oblivious to her serene  surroundings, perhaps reveling instead on connecting to the Google world outside this confinement. Exchanging smiles, both women murmur a few early-morning pleasantries. The older woman continues  typing. The quick click of her computer keys produces an arrhythmic beat. The uniformed woman deftly  pulls on purple rubber gloves. She then suspends a transparent plastic bag off one of three hooks  dangling from the IV pole. She attaches the bag’s long, flexible tube to the woman and gently arranges it  to avoid entangling the computer nestled on a pillow in the lady’s lap. The older woman seems to  deliberately focus away from whatever procedures may be underway.  

Before moving on to the next chair, the fluorescent pink t-shirt worn by the young woman  declares to its audience of one: “Texas Oncology: FIght CANcer.” The older woman’s t-shirt retorts back:  “Don’t Mess with Texas Women.”

Kitrina Marcroft

Submitter: Kitrina Marcroft, Idaho

About their art: I travel to another city to see my oncologist for my checkups. The drive takes me across a remote, windswept prairie with dramatic skies and abandoned buildings and homesteads. Coming home and spending time painting these landscapes is for me, a meditation on my journey through bladder cancer diagnosis and recovery.

Larry Cook

Submitter: Larry Cook, Florida

About their art: One thing that I would always look forward to in my cancer battle was escaping to my garage and creating a new piece of work. Turning a piece of wood on a lathe requires an intense focus with using the tools as well seeing what the wood could become in its new life. That focus does not leave room for your mind to think about scans, biopsies, or treatments.
While immunotherapy, bladder removal surgery, and chemotherapy across the entire year of 2020 did not permit me to turn as often as I would l like, it made those days that I could much more enjoyable.
Nowadays I teach woodturning, display my work in art festivals, and am a BCAN Survivor to Survivor volunteer. The item in the photo is a camphor vase with epoxy resin.

DJ Lee

Submitter: DJ Lee

About their art: In the first scans I saw of my bladder, an organ I’d never thought much about until I was diagnosed with MIBC, I noticed it was shaped like a heart. Though I knew I would eventually lose my bladder in surgery, I used the little energy I had during intensive chemo to draw a series of “bladder hearts” dedicated to what was sustaining me through treatment. After I healed from surgery and worked to fully embraced the bag as the life-saving device it is, I wrote poetry about my experience. The poetry has been published in the literary journals: Global City Press and CeaseCows.


Outside Zion
by DJ Lee
I walk a rise. Dig palms of gold from stiff dirt. Slide on Sand Pond next to a great lake. My daughter’s belly blossoms and the ice thickens. Far below, pockets hollow as bird bone swell. I will have a normal lifespan after all. Or I won’t. We cannot exchange indoor air. Momma Michigan’s waves freeze in motion and time outside Zion. Outside my window, icicles grow from the barren branches of a lilac. A quarrel of sparrows in the boxwoods. The hole punched through my back where the tube goes in. I will eat brown bread around a campfire with my daughter, her daughter. My avian companions survive winter on seeds hidden under the snow.