Brain tumor treatment reveals hidden artistic talent

My husband, Coleman Schoessow, draws vibrant, abstract,
stream-of-consciousness art with ink on canvas. He discovered this
hidden talent during brain tumor treatment. He began using art as a
form of relaxation and meditation, but it’s become something so much
more than that.

Black and white: a brain tumor diagnosis

On Oct. 5, 2013, Coleman and I had our own uniquely perfect wedding.
We were practically giddy in love. Then, on Oct. 15, 2013, the day
after we returned from our honeymoon, Coleman had a grand mal seizure.
We were stunned to learn that he had a brain tumor. Everything about our new reality
seemed unfair.

Coleman was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma, a malignant
grade III brain tumor. When the local neurosurgeon suggested waiting
four months before taking action, we sought a second opinion at MD Anderson. We haven’t looked back.

Shades of gray: brain tumor treatment and side effects

After Coleman’s initial surgery, we temporarily moved from our home in
Granbury, Texas, to Houston so that he could undergo six weeks of radiation therapy. This was an intensely
stressful time. We learned that brain cancer can cause patients to
doubt their own thoughts, abilities or even who they are, and
treatment can exaggerate these doubts. The radiation treatments
affected Coleman’s ability to think clearly. He began having trouble
discerning one voice from another when multiple people were talking,
which led to intense social anxiety. A year of chemotherapy (oral Temozolomide) also brought
fatigue and exaggerated his headaches and anxiety.

As Coleman’s wife and primary caregiver, I saw through his
uncertainties and knew that the kind, witty and interesting man I
married was still in there and worth fighting for. My job was to
support him as he found himself again. I also had to learn to
prioritize what truly mattered and balance my own emotions. A quote by
Brian Tracy helped me to refocus and stabilize myself: “You have
within you, right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the
world can throw at you.”

After months of watching a new spot on his MRIs, we braced for a
recurrence. Thankfully, his second surgery in October 2015 revealed it
was actually necrosis, and we were able to breathe a little easier.

It took several months for Coleman’s brain to heal from radiation,
chemo and the surgeries themselves, but he did heal. The
physical and mental side effects have all but disappeared. There were
a lot of tears in those first two years, but our situation formed a
powerful love and an unbreakable bond between us.

 Art as therapy

The combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy made it
difficult for Coleman to focus and left him with a high level of
anxiety. He began doodling in a notebook to help quiet his nerves and
calm his mind. He found that drawing allowed him to focus his mind in
a meditative way.

Coleman’s drawings had both a healing value and unusual style. It
was obvious to me that his artwork needed to be encouraged and shared.
I pushed him to experiment with different mediums. He began working on
canvas, and his creations gradually increased in size and complexity.
Over time, his anxieties have faded, and I largely attribute this to
his daily drawing sessions.

Coleman’s studio is in our home, where he can fully immerse himself
in his creativity. He listens to post-rock or punk music as he draws.
He creates highly detailed, non-objective drawings with bold coloring.
His vibrant artwork offers a glimpse of his mind. Each of his
creations is unique.

Brighter colors

Our home has gotten brighter and so much more colorful. Now those
gray days seem like a distant memory. Coleman is doing remarkably
well. We are so very thankful for the team of professionals, led by
neuro-oncologist John de Groot, M.D., who have treated Coleman
with care and expertise.

While Coleman also leads a healthy, active lifestyle, I believe
strongly that his artwork played a huge role in his recovery.

I am so lucky to have Coleman. Our marriage has been a roller
coaster of emotions, but our love is perfect. We are easily the
strongest, happiest couple I know. We build each other up at every
opportunity and champion each other’s talents. We have never been more
hopeful for a bright future.


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Anderson
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