When retired math teacher Barbara Kane was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 1997, Middle Tennessee didn’t have a Gilda’s Club. But Barbara sure could have used one, she says.
“My kids were in middle and high school at the time, and there was no real support available for any of us. My family wanted to help me – and each other – but they didn’t know how,” Barbara recalls. “I remember meeting this woman once, who was also dealing with cancer. She used an analogy to describe what she was going through and it really resonated with me: She said it was like being stranded on an island with your loved ones rowing a boat around the island again and again, not really knowing what to do. THIS WAS MY FAMILY! This was exactly how we felt!”
Fast forward about 20 years. Barbara’s daughter Keri is grown and working at Lowe’s Vanderbilt in Nashville when she decides to volunteer her time with a local cancer support organization: Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee. She invites her mom to get involved, too. Barbara – wonderfully cancer free – says “yes!” and has been volunteering with Gilda’s Club ever since.
“I facilitate art classes, because I think it’s important for people to have a space where they can express themselves creatively and give and receive support. Everyone has something to share,” she says. “The best part is the relief I see on the faces of the men, women and children who come to Gilda’s Club. The relief that comes when you find community – when you’re surrounded by others who know what you’re going through. And the fact that it’s all available for those with cancer AND their family and friends is amazing.”
Barbara’s love for art – and her belief in its ability to create hope and healing – isn’t limited to the work she does for Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee. In 2016, when the Arts and Heritage Development Council of Clarksville founded Arts for Hearts, the door opened for Barbara to share her passion beyond the cancer community. Today, she leads free workshops and classes for a variety of audiences throughout Middle Tennessee.
“From domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, and military veterans’ groups to public libraries and after-school programs, art is an essential part of any community. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share it with Gilda’s Club and so many others through Arts for Hearts.”
To learn more about Arts for Hearts, visit www.artsforheartsclarksville.org.