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Leukemia Survivor Heals Through Art Program

Leukemia patient Rachael Leisy.

October 02, 2019

At 23, Rachael Leisy says she has a motto – be "Thankful for Life." The young leukemia survivor has great reason to be just that. In October 2006, she had a bone marrow transplant, but 2 years later the engrafted cells went on the attack. That’s when Rachael began receiving treatments every 2 weeks at The University of Kansas Cancer Center's blood and marrow transplant facility to fight a disease in her lungs.

Rachael is one of several BMT patients at the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion using art to channel their emotions during a difficult time. Called Tiles of Hope, the arts-in-healing program encourages BMT patients to express their feelings as they go through the transplant process by painting them on ceramic tiles.

During a recent tile-painting event, Rachael recruited her parents to help paint a set of tiles. Each painted one word from her "Thankful for Life" motto on a tile. "I think it's wonderful to take time to be together, be creative, do something fun and not think about blood cancer, which patients with cancer think about every day," says Rachael.

The tiles eventually will be displayed in the BMT outpatient area at the Westwood Campus.

The idea for Tiles of Hope came from patient Orville Henderson Jr., who believed patients with cancer would benefit from a creative outlet to express themselves. Jill Hardy, his daughter, worked with BMT staff to launch Tiles of Hope in her father's memory.

"He knew from personal experience the importance and power of reminding patients and caregivers they aren't alone – that there's always hope,” says Jill.

One of the nurses who treated Orville was Amy Rice, RN, who helps connect patients with the program, which is staffed with faculty and students from the University of Kansas School of Allied Health’s occupational therapy program.

"Patients receiving treatments in BMT can be here for 1-10 hours at a time," says Amy. "With Tiles of Hope, they can spend some of that time creating something inspirational."

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