Thrive by IU Health

December 21, 2021

Virtual Art Studio, Art Therapist Welcome Patient from Georgia

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Virtual Art Studio, Art Therapist Welcome Patient from Georgia

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

He arrived in early December and will remain in the hospital throughout the holidays. Minter Garvin Jr. is 800 miles away from home.

He came to IU Health Simon Cancer Center, known for the successful treatment of testicular cancer - germ cell tumors - using a mix of high-dose chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant.

After a 13-hour drive, he was settled into the bone marrow unit at IU Health University Hospital and was introduced to a new art therapy program.

A Virtual Art Studio is offered each Wednesday to patients in the unit. The initiative is part of IU Health’s CompleteLife Program focusing on holistic healing. In addition to art, certified professionals offer patients complimentary massage, music, and yoga therapy.

“The virtual art studio model of creating and conversing serves to connect patients who may otherwise feel isolated in their rooms,” said art therapist Heidi Moffatt. It’s especially important for those patients who come from far away. Garvin and his wife, Neccy, traveled from Folkston, Ga. He is the second in a line of “Minter Garvins” - all living within a mile of each other. The Garvins have three adult children back home.

“This is all so different for us. We come from a small town with five stoplights and the whole community has rallied around us,” said Neccy. Folkston is the county seat for Charlton County, and home to about 2,500 residents. The town is known for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and eco-tours including bird watching, hiking, kayaking and canoeing swamp adventures. It’s about an hour north of Jacksonville, Fla.

On their drive to Indianapolis, the Garvins took photos in Atlanta – home to Minter’s favorite baseball team – the Atlanta Braves. Once in Indianapolis they took photos of Lucas Oil Stadium and the IUPUI campus. It was a journey that began 10 months ago when Gavin was first diagnosed with testicular cancer.

They arrived in Indianapolis on December 5. Moffatt delivered an art bag donated by the Riley Cheer Guild, filled with markers, colored pencils, a drawing pencil, oil pastels, and an individual-size sculpting media. The Riley Cheer Guild was founded in 1924. The volunteer-based program supports hospital programs that provide comfort to adult and pediatric patients and their caregivers.

“The visual art studio invites open creating so patients use the kit given to them as they wish and when they feel up to it,” said Moffatt. She may offer a prompt for those who want more direction, such as a word like “nourishment.” Participants keep a journal encouraging them to reflect on their work. Participants log in to the hour-long studio with their personal cell phone or tablet at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Patients have sketched, colored, doodled, written poems, and written journal entries, said Moffatt. They are invited to share as much or as little of their work with the group as they wish. “Sometimes individuals attend to get their mind off of their healthcare and get creative; other times individuals may choose to focus on their treatment progress in the company of other patients. There is no right or wrong way to participate, and no experience is required,” she said.

For Garvin, 52, the introduction to art therapy is unexplored territory – similar to his journey to Indiana. “After everything I’ve been through, I’m open to anything,” he said. Until his cancer diagnosis, he had barely been sick a day in his life.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 9,470 new cases of testicular cancer in the United States this year; about one in every 250 males will develop testicular cancer in their lifetime. The average age of diagnosis is 33. It is typically a disease of young and middle-aged men.

After 20 cycles of chemotherapy at a hospital in Jacksonville, Fla. Garvin learned the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. That’s when he was referred to Indianapolis and IU Health Simon Cancer Center. He is in the care of oncologist Dr. Nasser Hanna.

Garvin received the first half of his stem cell transplant on December 15 – a day referred to as his “second birthday.” As he passes the time, he listens to holiday music and knows that when he feels up to it, there’s art therapy waiting.

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