Images courtesy of Richard Harvey.
Local artist, poet and brain cancer survivor Richard Harvey will facilitate a Healing Through Creativity workshop alongside the debut of his new book, 20 Poems 20 Paintings, A Creative Warrior’s Journal, in an effort to help cancer fighters, survivors and their support people process the challenges and changes that accompany a cancer diagnosis. CALB (Cultural Alliance Long Beach) At The Shore will host the event on Saturday, August 15 from 2:00PM to 6:00PM.
Harvey was diagnosed with brain cancer in April 2005. After enduring a migraine headache for six weeks, Harvey visited six different doctors before one finally ordered a neurological exam. He was admitted on April 13th and on the 16th had emergency surgery after they had stabilized the pressure and swelling in his head. Harvey said a few weeks later a pathologist confirmed that the tumor was a grade of Astrocytoma.
“The doctors kind of took over [and] told me what was going to happen,” said Harvey. “I had no idea what to think or do, other than let them save my life. I spent a lot of time focusing on the best possible outcomes, mostly to blanket over the terror.”
Harvey stopped chemotherapy treatment after two years because one, the chemo can cause Leukemia if taken for longer than two years, and two, he felt ready to let go of his “cancer patient identity.” And while Harvey’s neurooncologist expects the tumor to return at some point, he has a positive outlook on the matter, one that was greatly nurtured by his need to create and help others, an endeavor he had been hesitant to fully pursue before the diagnosis.
“So I am living, I expect to continue living, creating and connecting, and although I don't think it is going to come back, I have to accept that it might, and if it does, well, I got to do a lot of cool shit in-between,” he said.
Both visual art and poetry allowed the survivor to not only deal with his diagnosis, but a divorce, as well. He named the process Healing Through Creativity, a tool that guided him through the two most difficult experiences of his life.
“I had not explored this part of my nature nearly enough prior to this huge shift because, like most people in the U.S., I judged the absolute value of my accomplishments in economic terms," Harvey said.
So Harvey began to write with the educated assumption that he had a fairly limited time left to be alive. Writing helped him to process the situation, which made not only himself feel better, but also the people he chose to share his poems with. As a service-oriented person, he was now doing everything he valued and enjoyed, creating and helping others.
20 Poems 20 Paintings, A Creative Warrior’s Journal was born from this innate desire to give, to offer a tool for his readers to process their challenges and build community through their creativity all for the sake of healing. The book was a collaborative process with an introduction written by Harvey to help readers “understand what impedes people from creating and how these impediments can be avoided.” Alongside several of the poems he wrote during his journey, journal pages and painting pages include optional prompts for the page-turner to explore their own visions.
The Healing Through Creativity workshop will include three creative breakout sessions where participants will have the chance to generate a healing vocabulary list, write about their experience, create artwork, collaborate on a mural and perhaps join in on the dancing if they’re so inclined. According to the announcement, fellow cancer fighters and survivors, support people and local poets will share with Harvey in reading poems from his journey through brain cancer.
Harvey told the Post that he hopes attendees of the workshop will develop a sense of what works for them to process their challenges and will be able to see another side of what Long Beach’s creative community has to offer.
“I'm especially looking forward to seeing the artwork and hearing the words that come from this group,” he said. “I am also very excited to watch how the cancer fighters and survivors who get to be a part of this experience it. And I'm hopeful that my book launch gets a lot of momentum from it [and] that we [can] build a community of advocacy out of it.”
For more information about the event, visit the Facebook page here. CALB At The Shore is above Shenanigans Restaurant at 423 Shoreline Village Drive.