How Cancer Survivors Use Art As Therapy
- Throat cancer survivor Val Kilmer, 63, is promoting his artwork, which he sales on his website ValKilmer.com, on his social media pages. In his most recent Instagram post, the “Top Gun” star shared a video clip from one of his art gallery exhibitions and revealed he dreams of hosting another event like that one in the future.
- Kilmer, who is a great example of how it’s important to keep following our dreams no matter what challenges we may face, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014; he had a tracheotomy and also underwent chemotherapy to treat his disease. The actor lost his voice to the disease and turned to artwork as a way to express himself.
- Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer where cancerous cells begin in the throat, voice box or tonsils.
- Experts recommend those facing cancer should find activities that bring them joy; a positive attitude can really impact treatment outcomes.
“As I dream, I envision another gallery exhibit in my future but for now, you can explore and enjoy my available works by visiting ValKilmer.com,” Kilmer captioned his most recent Instagram post, featuring a video clip of his art gallery exhibit.
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The beloved actor was seen smiling while others admired his creations, all decorated with vibrant colors.
Expert Throat Cancer Resources
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Kilmer’s post was filled with praise from fans, with one writing, “Keep doing you Val. Thank you from a big fan of your art.”
Another wrote, “You’re such a talented and nice guy (a rare diamond).”
In another one of Kilmer’s recent posts, the actor shared an abstract print featuring various shades of green and black.
He wrote alongside the photo of his artwork, “This is the final abstract print in Series 5, and it’s now available for me to share with you! It’s an abstract so it can be whatever you imagine!
“That’s what’s cool; it’s deliberately ambiguous. I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection as much as I have. Thankful for you.”
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Kilmer’s determination to keep creating artwork is something we admire as he’s the epitome of resilience. On Kilmer’s website, which is promoted in his most recent Instagram post, the “About Me” section reads, “Val continues to paint and is a talented and prolific artist in a variety of mediums, leaning toward enamel paint on metal. His latest efforts have opened up the world of Web 3.
“Along with business partner Ali Alborzi they started Kamp Kilmer, a sacred space for creative alike to come and explore NFT’s and many other forms of art. His art can be seen in galleries and pop-up shows across the U.S and on the blockchain!”
Further explaining what Kamp Kilmer is, the actor-turned-artist writes on his website, “My name is Val Kilmer. I’m an artist. I’ve lived a magical life. For more than half a century, I have been honing my art, no matter the medium.
“Be it literature, movies, poetry, painting, music, or tracking exotic and beautiful wildlife in the most remote African bush, to capture ephemeral moments with a camera, I yearn to express my creative spirit.”
The dad of two continued, “Six years ago, I was diagnosed with throat cancer, and after much prayer, medical science, and the love of my family and community, I beat cancer. But because of the radiation and chemotherapy interventions, my voice and throat were severely damaged. It isn’t easy to talk and be understood. I am improving all the time, but am not able to be out in the world the same way I had become accustomed. When one thing is taken, though, another is given.
“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, and I started looking for a place to do so. I found a large studio in Hollywood. A fun sacred space where artists, musicians, muses, collectors, and friends could gather to celebrate creativity – and then the unthinkable, a global pandemic that pushed us all into our homes. You can’t snuff out destiny. The story is far from over…….Enter KAMP KILMER.”
Val Kilmer’s Battle With Throat Cancer
Val Kilmer discovered he had throat cancer in 2015 but chose not to speak publicly about his diagnosis until 2017.
The actor wasn’t considering conventional treatment at first, thinking his Christian Science faith would heal the tumors. But he ultimately agreed to undergo chemotherapy for the sake of his children, Mercedes, 31, and Jack, 28, whom he had with his ex-wife, English actress Joanne Whalley, 62.
Kilmer also underwent a tracheotomy, a surgical procedure that connects the windpipe to a hole in the front of the neck, which greatly impacted his speaking voice.
Thankfully, Kilmer continued acting as “Top Gun: Maverick” filmmakers were able to help give Iceman a voice again thanks to artificial intelligence technology that used samples of him speaking to recreate his signature speech patterns.
And though he originally kept his cancer battle out of the public eye, Kilmer eventually shared more about his journey through interviews, his autobiography “I’m Your Huckleberry,” and his documentary, “Val.”
“I have been healed of cancer for over four years now, and there has never been any recurrence,” he wrote. “I am so grateful.”
Turning to Art during a Cancer Battle
Val Kilmer turned to creating art during his treatment and he continues to do so today. Looking inward for inspiration can be a very purifying journey to help get you through the before, during or aftermath of a cancer journey.
Marianne Cuozzo, a three-time cancer survivor, can attest to the power of art. And despite the fact that cancer has essentially been her whole life, Cuozzo has recognized herself as a lot more than a diagnosis by focusing on her life as a mother and an artist.
Cuozzo was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994 at the age of 28. In 1997, she had a recurrence, and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She had a double mastectomy and originally got implants with reconstruction.
But after years of infections, she decided to remove her implants and “go flat.” Her artwork reflects a deeply personal exploration of body image and sexuality. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Cuozzo tells us how she found comfort expressing herself through her work.
“My artwork is very reflective of my cancer journey,” Cuozzo says. “I’m doing the best I can to feel beautiful in this new body.”
Do What You Love During & After Cancer
During cancer treatment, and also after, it can be hard to focus on anything except your treatment or the challenges that follow a cancer battle. However, Kilmer is the perfect example that it’s important to take a moment and focus on something that makes you genuinely happy.
Do What You Love During & After Cancer
Experts recommend you try to take some time out of your day a few times a week and really enjoy those special pockets of joy.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology, previously told SurvivorNet.
“So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”
Understanding Throat Cancer
Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer where cancerous cells begin in the throat, voice box or tonsils. Some of the main risk factors for this disease include smoking, drinking alcohol, a diet lacking in fruits or vegetables, acid reflux disease and the human papillomavirus (HPV).
So, one way to decrease the chances of developing the disease is to get the HPV vaccine.
The American Cancer Society recommends that boys and girls get the HPV vaccine between ages 9 and 12. The organization also stresses that teens and young adults through age 26 who are not already vaccinated should get the HPV vaccine as soon as possible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, “About 85% of people will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. Vaccinating all 11–12-year-olds can protect them long before they are ever exposed. CDC recommends two doses of HPV vaccine for all adolescents at age 11 or 12 years.”
Dr. Jessica Geiger, a medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, explains the link between throat cancer and HPV in a previous interview with SurvivorNet.
“There are no screening guidelines to screen for throat cancer, unlike cervical cancer with pap smears. And there are no standard tests to determine if you harbor the (HPV) virus,” Dr. Geiger said.
“However, there is no concern that you’re going to spread this cancer to your partner or to anyone else, because at this point your partner has already been exposed to the virus and likely cleared it.”
There’s no yearly screening for throat cancer, so doctors often discover the disease when a patient sees them with symptoms that may point to it. Some symptoms include:
- A cough
- Changes in your voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- A lump or sore that doesn’t heal
- A sore throat
- Weight loss
It’s important to note, however, that these symptoms are not exclusive to throat cancer. Still, you should always see a doctor if you have any changes to your health.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff