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Cancer surviors show their artTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo/Image
'Holly Bunny' by Linda Mooney
Courtesy Photo/Image
by Darlene Finke
Courtesy Photo/Image
by Sue Condon
Courtesy Photo/Image
by Phyllis Lawyer
Courtesy Photo/Image
by Eunice Spradlin
Courtesy Photo/Image
Angel by Darlene Finke
Photo by George Lauby
Display room

If Darlene Finke had it to do over again, she would choose to have cancer and learn to paint.

Finke went through a tough battle with breast cancer five years ago. The tumor was large. She endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

She has had no problems since.

As she underwent treatments after surgery, she saw a flyer about art classes that were free for cancer victims. It intrigued her.

“I’d never done artwork before,” she said. “It never even crossed my mind. As a kid I liked to color. That was about it. At first I thought well, maybe. But then I thought, no, I can’t draw.”

But during a brief discussion with nurse Fran Ranck at what is now the Callahan Cancer Center, Ranck offered to reschedule Finke’s treatments if she wanted to go to the class, and that encouragement made all the difference.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Finke said. “The only time I miss a class is if I am sick or out of town.”

The survivors' 2008 Fun With Color calendars are available at no charge at the Art and Gift Gallery, downtown at 516 N. Dewey. A limited number of calendars have been signed by the artists.

More than 100 artworks by cancer survivors are on display at the gallery this month, in addition to works by several other artists. Many are for sale.

Calendars are also available at Great Plains Regional Medical Center.

The instructor

Sandy Meyer battled cancer 22 years ago, traveling to Omaha for treatments because extensive treatment wasn’t offered in North Platte. She took up art in part for therapy. Art took hold of her.

“It grabbed me,” she said. “I started studying as much as possible.”

Meyer became a professional artist, and is known throughout Nebraska for her work. She has won Best of Show at the Association of Nebraska Arts Club and the Nebraska Mother’s Art Show, National Mother’s Show.

She has so much knowledge about art running around in her head that she loves to share it with others. Five years ago, she started teaching art classes for cancer survivors in North Platte. Survivors come from Lincoln County and the surrounding area.

Each year they collect their works and print them into a calendar. Meyer gives credit to Great Plains Regional Medical Center, who provides all materials for the class.

The freedom

“When you’re painting, part of your mind is free,” Meyer said. “You don’t think about laundry, about pain, about chores that have to be done.”

The classes are held each week on Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sometimes students hate to leave. They stay until mid-afternoon.

“You never look at the clock,” Finke said.

“Sandy is great,” said Renee Dunne, who started the classes last spring. “It’s just amazing what she can bring out in a person. She gives you an incentive. Some go to school for years to learn, but with her inspiration, it’s amazing what people have learned to do.”

The group is a support group, but not in the conventional sense.

It’s been a godsend, the classes and the companionship,” said Judie Lalanne. “You get to learn and make friends at the same time. There are people to talk to if you want to, or you can just paint. I think it’s a permanent activity for me.”

Lalanne had breast cancer twice, the last time was nearly 10 years ago. She moved to North Platte four years ago after her husband died and started the classes in part to meet people.

“I had been thinking about watercolors anyway,” she said, “but I was reluctant at the thought of it. But it’s not boring. It’s not somber at all. We like to laugh. We talk about art, about things that are happening in our lives. We talk about cancer in an encouraging way. Some are going through treatment now and need support. Others are long-term survivors. There is lots of sharing of information. The painting and the art draw us together.”

Meyer’s humor, grace and desire to give to others make it possible, Lalanne said.

“I enjoyed art classes when I was younger — in high school – but that was 30-some years ago,” Dunne said. “It was something I wanted to know how to do better, and Sandy is a wonderful person and teacher. She has a real good way about her.”

“This takes you out of your normal element and puts you into something else,” she said. “It is a time to relax and forget about other things. All the women are great. It is good to be with others and enjoy what you are doing. It’s something you don’t want to miss unless you have to.”

The joy

Finke said it has made a new person out of her. Cancer taught her to value her life, one day at a time. Art taught her to value the beauty and colors of nature and in life.

“I used to be a worry-wart,” she said. “This makes you so much more aware of everything around you. This has been the best five years of my life.”

If cancer claims a member, the class plants a tree in a city park in her memory, and they circle the tree, and dance.

"We all say something about that person," Meyer said, "and we say something joyful."

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 12/12/2007
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