exhibit tells story of
Brunners battle, survival of bone cancer
a year of treatment,
she appears to be cancer free
Helen E. McKinney
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 2009) Upon being diagnosed
with Ewings sarcoma, a rare childhood bone cancer, Jennifer Brunner
said she felt a barrage of emotions. Past her childhood at age 23, her
odds of being diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma was roughly one in
cancer patient Jennifer Brunner used art therapy as a
healing method, first with photography and then by transferring
the image through the use of pastels, crayons and paints.
Having an experience like this certainly changes
your perspective on things, said Brunner, who was born in Tulsa,
Okla., and grew up near Houston. Brunner had earned a bachelors
degree in English and been pursing a second degree in French at Indiana
University Southeast before her diagnosis.
She had been misdiagnosed by doctors for several months and was beginning
to believe it was all in her head. She felt relieved to finally find
an answer, but at the same time, I felt angry. I had suffered
for several months due to misdiagnosis. I was only 23, and I had always
taken care of myself. I was a nice person. It didnt make any sense.
Brunner was in treatment for about a year at Kosair Childrens
Hospital in Louisville. Art therapists worked with her during her treatment
to provide emotional healing through creative expression.
Through art therapy, Brunner was able to cope with her illness. It
was healing to be able to tell my story and put it in a way that people
Just merely telling someone she wore a chest tube or central line for
a year would not be as revealing to them as seeing a picture of it,
then they would understand, she said.
Brunners mother, Julie Brunner, took many photographs for her
daughter, who then used a variety of medium to create an accompanying
image from the photograph of herself. All different types of art
tools were used, said Julie, such as pastels, paints, pencils
Brunners art exhibit is titled, A Bone Fractured Fairytale:
My Year Lost in Cancer Land. It will be on display March 6 through
May 31 at Fb3 Development, 624 E. Market St., Louisville. Gallery visitors
can meet Brunner during the First Friday Trolley Hop on Friday, March
Brunner was interested in photography before becoming ill. While at
Kosair, she asked anyone with a camera to snap pictures of anything
they found striking or interesting. Later, I sorted through the
pictures and found the most compelling ones. These consisted of
Brunner receiving radiation, physician examinations and the day she
shaved her head.
Art therapy was one non-medicated method of getting relief from an extremely
stressful situation, said Julie Brunner. It made life better able
to deal with, and provided Brunner with a calmness she desperately
I think Jennifers show is unique in that it captures such
a range of human emotions, said Emily R. Johnson, MA, LPCA, Expressive
Art Therapist with Norton Cancer Institute. Objectives of doing art
therapy with patients and their families can range from expressing emotions,
building self-esteem, strengthening relationships, regaining control,
distraction from pain or lengthy stays to sharing their story and perspective
with others, said Johnson.
Brunner is able to joke about her stay at Kosair as the only adult in
a pediatric ward by saying that she felt like the geriatric patient
in the unit and that I belonged in a nursing home.
Even through her pain, she was able to see the lighter side of things
when nurses would make their rounds with coloring books. Aware that
she could have been the age of the parents of some of the children,
she said she felt like the big sister.
Brunner said the experience began as a scrap-booking idea, but the result
became something she wanted to share on a large scale with others. I
imagine that when people experience her photos, art pieces and writing
they will laugh, cry, sigh, cringe, nod, smile and everything in between,
Brunner is now on a three-month schedule for scans and appears to be
cancer free. She received such good care at Kosair that she has decided
to pursue a degree in nursing.
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