We were introduced to the Shah family really early in Matthew’s diagnosis. Matt had an instant connection with Amaey playing Mario Cart in the waiting room at the Bass center.
We were then extended an invitation to attend an art workshop for caregivers, hosted by Purvi with Kids & Art. Considering myself as a caregiver was such a foreign concept for me, I am just a mom, but now I am a mom of a pediatric cancer patient giving more responsibility and pressure than I ever had before.
I will never forget the awkwardness I felt when walking up to the doorway of a complete stranger’s home. But this was not just any stranger – this was the Shah’s home. When I walked in I was greeted with warmth, acceptance and an unspoken understanding of why I was there and what I needed in that moment. One of the artists, Rinat, attentively handed out various art supplies and gave very simple instructions: "there is no right or wrong, just create". The irony is that I was focused on Matthew's drugs, negative interactions with food, timing of dosages, next lab appointments, blah blah blah, that I felt so inadequate to create art. But as I stared off into the canvas and I began to put brush strokes and collage down and so much of the pent up energy literally flowed from my brain down my arms to my creation. After two hours of selfless time and detachment I was able to transcend my chaos into art and I was for the first time in 4 months calm, and it was unbelievably…therapeutic.
We were invited to many other events through Kids & Art where all the kids could participate in group events in a healthy, safe, and creative environment. Events were typically at different cool locations around the bay area like Pixar or Google – not at the hospital, which made attending them so much more welcoming. My kids could just be in the moment at the workshops. Most kids like Matt are either patients or they are siblings, like Kyra, who are craving connection. Matt’s sister Kyra has strong love for art and is very creative. These workshops enabled her to dump out on canvas all her emotions churning in her head and create with artists that challenged her. Matt is much more introverted with his feelings but the volunteers always had a way of helping to bring out his kooky side through his artwork.
Kyra was so taken in by Kids & Art that she wanted to give back in the same spirit that helped her through a very difficult time while her brother was in treatment. With Purvi’s unconditional support, Kyra went to work for Kids & Art as an intern. She also frequently brings me along as her sidekick to volunteer at some of the events – sometimes I think it is because she likes to be the boss of me.
Recently, I went on a trip to the mountains with some girlfriends. We all brought our favorite snacks, wine, etc., but I brought along paints and canvas. I spent close to 5 hours painting on the back deck of the cabin. I was at peace and truly in a happy place. I don’t think that I would have ever done this if it were not for the gift of art therapy Kids & Art opened my eyes to.
All the artists and volunteers involved with Kids & Art truly are amazing. Not only are they artists but they are therapists – helping children tap into their creativity to communicate their feelings and senses through art.
Our family’s connection with Kids & Art is an incredibly special gift, one that we all cherish in our own way and the gratitude and respect I have for Purvi, Apurva and Arjun is truly beyond words.