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Patriotic repurposer: She was giving back to the hospital before she was a patient

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Patriotic repurposer: She was giving back to the hospital before she was a patient

She can turn a Ball jar lid into a red, white, and blue coaster. She loves sewing and all sorts of craft projects. So when Ethel Terrel became a patient, she was thrilled to learn about art therapy.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

As soon as she begins talking, the West Virginia accent heightens the charm of Ethel Terrel’s stories. She was born and raised in the Appalachian state and moved to Florida later in life.

Thirty-seven years ago Terrel moved to Salem, Ind., and she brought with her a rich heritage that included life skills passed down from one generation to the next.

She was raised the oldest of eight children and began cooking when she was in elementary school. She also learned at an early age to make do with what she had.

The mother of two sons, and grandmother to five, Terrel is known for her beef and noodles, apple pie, broccoli-cauliflower salad, Italian cream cake and carrot cake made from baby food. She once single-handedly catered a wedding for 300 people and served up a delicious bourbon chicken. She also cooks meals for those who are homeless in her community.

She loves scouring thrift shops and secondhand stores for castoff items that she can make into something new. She’s turned a green bean can into a decorative wall hanging, a cheese board into a welcome sign, and a stick of wood into a firecracker. She especially loves patriotic themes and has painted numerous red, white, and blue ornaments.

“I’ve always loved to make something out of nothing,” said Terrel, 74. She doesn’t sell anything but loves to give away her creations to friends and family members.

Back in her Washington County log home, Terrel baked cakes to take to the hospital emergency department. She also sewed 400 masks and 75 scrub caps for four different hospitals when the pandemic broke out.

“It’s my mission. There’s nothing I’d rather do,” said Terrel.

It was a year ago June when she went in for blood work, that Terrel learned she had excess protein in her blood. Another test six months later showed an additional increase. More tests followed and in December 2021 she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell, a plasma cell.

“I didn’t feel bad at all. I clean four or five houses all week and I wasn’t a bit tired,” said

Terrel. After several rounds of chemotherapy, she came to IU Health where she has been in the care of Dr. Sherif Farag and Dr. Mohammad Abu Zaid. After undergoing a bone marrow transplant she is passing the time working with IU Health Art Therapist Heidi Moffatt.

In one recent session, she dipped marbles into colorful paints and rolled them across the paper to create an abstract piece of art. The work sits in her hospital window. Art therapy is part of the CompleteLife Program at IU Health that attends to holistic healing - the mind, body and spirit. In addition to art, patients may take part in music, massage, and yoga therapy.

CompleteLife is accepting original works from patients, caregivers and staff members to exhibit in the Fifth Annual Art Show. The theme for this year’s show is “Finding Calm in the Chaos.” The show will be on display in IU Health Simon Cancer Center & University Hospital Sept. 19-30 and the Harrison Center for the Arts, Oct. 7-31. All levels of artists are encouraged to participate. To learn more click here or call 317-944-0301.

“I love that there is an art therapy program here. It helps keep me occupied when I can’t be at home doing crafts,” said Terrel. She plans to enter one of her projects in the art show. She is especially fond of working with silk transfers and Mod Podge and learns a lot of her techniques from craft shows.

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