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Health Team

Cancer patients use creativity to help heal

Posted December 28, 2009 5:40 p.m. EST
Updated December 28, 2009 7:03 p.m. EST

— A legend began after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, which ended World War II.

The subsequent radiation caused many people, including a young girl near the city, to develop cancer.

“As she was in the hospital, people would bring her paper, and she would fold cranes. The legend is, if you fold a thousand cranes, your wish comes true,” said Phillip Shoe, of the Duke University Medical Center.

Cancer patients at Duke Medical Center find origami is a great time-killer as they wait for appointments and treatments.

“We see it as kind of therapy, giving folks a chance to work together,” Shoe said.

The cancer clinic staff hoped to collect 1,000 cranes for a display but ended up with 2,500 cranes that patients and community members sent in, Shoe said.

Patients, staff and volunteers are also making holiday decorations.

Metastatic breast cancer patient Doris Ann Price says using her creativity puts her condition out of her mind for awhile. It also helps to put her in touch with a deeper source of healing.

“It’s the spirit that you bring into it – faith, whatever you want to call it. It's a very important component to healing,” Price said.

Price also enjoys the new friendships she has found with people of all backgrounds. That's why breast cancer survivor Claire Weinberg likes the story of the Japanese girl and the cranes.

“Maybe if we recognize this commonality that we share, that anyone could have cancer, maybe we could recognize that there aren't so many differences between us,” Weinberg said.