Fighting Cancer with Colors
How I Rediscovered My Inner Artist While Fighting Lymphoma
by Marisol Del Sol-Auten
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “It’s lymphoma.” The scenario was surreal. I was 40 years old. I had just married the love of my life and gotten my MBA in international business through a program sponsored by my employer, a prestigious worldwide oil company that had offered me a promotion as an international sales and marketing executive.
“This isn’t happening to me,” I thought. “Cancer happens to other people, but never to people like me – a nonsmoker, healthy eater, swimmer, and cycling enthusiast who makes time for physical activity five days a week. I can’t have cancer!” I was in denial.
I knew very little about what was ahead of me, and I was terrified. I had faced many challenges in my life, but this was my own mortality. I still had so many things I wanted to do. I didn’t know how to begin this new chapter of my life, and I didn’t know how long I would have to figure it out.
While I was drawing, fear and sadness would disappear, as if I was leaving it on the paper.
One day, a few months into an aggressive eight cycles of chemotherapy, I was sitting silently in my office. Meditating with my eyes closed, I had a revelation. I could see that there were only two things I really cared about in this life, two things that I wanted to live for: my family and friends, and my paintings.
“What?” I asked myself. “My paintings?” The revelation took me by surprise.
I immediately got up and began to rummage through my closet. At the bottom of some boxes, I found my paintings. Some were dated 10 years ago, and I even found a drawing I did 22 years ago. I have moved so many times, lived in seven different countries, but surprisingly, miraculously even, my art has traveled with me.
“This is it,” I thought. “Painting will show me the way back to health. This is my way to recovery and healing.”
I went to an art supply store two blocks from my house and bought pencils, drawing paper, pastels, and a sketchbook. I started sketching and drawing almost every day. At first, I would let my “inner artist” do what it wanted. I would move my hand unconsciously across the paper. I would pick colors and forms as they came to my mind. While I was drawing, fear and sadness would disappear, as if I was leaving it on the paper. Colors and shapes came to mean different things, and I would draw for hours, especially at night when I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I would fall asleep with a pencil in my hand and my sketchbook by my side.
Drawing replaced my tears, and colors gave me back a sense of belonging, a joy and a peace I thought I would never recover. Since then, I have decided to become the artist I always dreamed of being, with the desire to help others use art as therapy the way I did.
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Marisol Del Sol-Auten is a lymphoma survivor living in Houston, TX. She is currently preparing for her first art exhibit, which is scheduled to take place in November 2013 in Houston.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2013.