How Artistic Expression Helps Your Cancer Journey?
- Actor Val Kilmer, 63, battled throat cancer nearly a decade ago, and his recovery was challenging and impacted his speaking voice. He turned to creating abstract art pieces to help him communicate and cope during his cancer journey.
- Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 after feeling a big lump in his throat. Throat cancer is cancer that develops in your throat or voice box.
- Signs of throat cancer may include a sore throat, pain with swallowing, difficulty swallowing, and the sensation of a lump or mass in the throat.
- As a treatment, Kilmer underwent chemotherapy and a tracheotomy procedure.
- Turning to art, such as music, painting, or dancing, may be therapeutic for cancer patients, aiding their recovery. Research involving cancer patients who used art to cope showed they may experience “decreased depression, anxiety, drowsiness, and tiredness.”
- In 2020, researchers studied the outcomes of therapeutic artmaking in patients undergoing radiation oncology treatment. Although the research was limited in scope, it found patients reported “decreased depression, anxiety, drowsiness, and tiredness” after mindfulness-based art therapy intervention.
“Top Gun” actor Val Kilmer’s throat cancer battle took a toll on him physically and emotionally. While undergoing treatment, he struggled to talk. However, the resilient actor was undeterred and found other ways to communicate while he worked to regain his voice. He turned to art, which not only conveyed messages but also helped him heal emotionally during his cancer journey.
Art therapy is a coping mechanism some cancer patients turn to, helping them get through the ups and downs of treatment. Sometimes, the art is through music, or in the case of Kilmer, 63, it’s visual.
Read MoreView this post on Instagram
“I’ve been diving into a beautiful ocean of blues lately, and I’m thrilled to share this journey with you,” Kilmer captioned an Instagram post showing off an eye-catching water painting.
Kilmer has taken his artistry seriously, especially in recent years. He says his abstract pieces are meant to connect people and offer a source of inspiration.
Kilmer’s cancer journey included undergoing a tracheotomy, which is a surgical procedure that connects the windpipe to a hole in the front of the neck. The procedure severely impacted his ability to speak. He described his voice to the New York Times as “between a squeak and a voiceless roar.” He had to undergo vocal exercises to regain his voice.
Using Art Therapy to Heal
Kilmer resorted to a form of therapy to help cope with the emotions of losing his voice because of his throat cancer.
“With little voice, my creative juices were boiling over and pouring out of me. I started creating again, painting, writing anything I could. I felt the art healing me. I wanted to share this with others,” Kilmer said on his website.
Many cancer patients wrestling with their emotions or adjusting to cancer treatment undergo immense stress. During times like these, resorting to therapy such as music, dancing, painting, and other art forms can be extremely helpful.
In 2020, researchers studied the outcomes of therapeutic artmaking in patients undergoing radiation oncology treatment. Although the research was limited in scope, it found patients reported “decreased depression, anxiety, drowsiness, and tiredness” after mindfulness-based art therapy intervention.
Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Health, told SurvivorNet that emotional health and good quality of life are associated with better survival and better outcomes. Art therapy can influence a cancer patient’s overall emotional health.
View this post on Instagram
“I hope that you’ve found a connection or a message of your own gathered from one of these pieces. Art is an expression of the creator, but it is meant to be shared, to ignite conversations, and to inspire,” Kilmer wrote in an Instagram post showing off more art.
Expert Throat Cancer Resources
Kilmer’s Cancer Journey
Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. In an interview with The New York Times, Kilmer did not immediately see his doctor for symptoms associated with his throat cancer.
He told the outlet he felt a “big lump in his throat” in 2014. After waking up in a “pool of his own blood,” he was convinced to see his doctor, who confirmed his cancer diagnosis.
Throat cancer is cancer that develops in your throat or voice box.
“[Throat] cancer can cause symptoms in the throat including sore throat, pain with swallowing, difficulty swallowing, the sensation of a lump or mass in the throat, ear pain, and less commonly voice changes, hoarseness or difficulty opening the jaw,” Dr. Ryan Hughes, a radiation oncologist at Wake Forest School of Medicine, told SurvivorNet.
“In the majority of patients, [throat cancer] does not cause symptoms in the throat but instead first presents with an otherwise asymptomatic mass in the neck,” Dr. Hughes added.
“Because of the radiation and chemotherapy interventions, my voice and throat were severely damaged. It isn’t easy to talk and be understood,” Kilmer said.
The famous actor underwent chemotherapy to help treat the cancer. He also underwent a tracheotomy procedure, which had an impact on his ability to speak. This procedure connects the windpipe to a hole in the front of your neck.
Interestingly, the actor continued working on production projects using artificial intelligence technology despite the tracheotomy’s impact on his voice. The technology was created by Sonantic, which used samples of Kilmer speaking to recreate his speech patterns.
Since undergoing treatment for throat cancer, Kilmer has said he’s “healed of cancer” in his memoir, “I’m Your Huckleberry.”
He also added since battling cancer, “I’m so grateful.”