We can all recall the masterpieces we colored as children: The colors may not have always been inside the lines, and the finished products weren’t always frame-worthy, but it was a relaxing activity that allowed us to explore our creative sides!
Recently, adults have been enticed to revisit their carefree childhood days with the rising trend of coloring books geared toward adults. Big-box retailers, bookstores and online sites are selling the books en masse; Crayola even just recently launched its own line of adult coloring books, paired with special crayons and pencils. According to CNN, adult coloring is “all the rage” right now.
The trend is not just a money grab, however; there are real benefits to the phenomenon — including for people facing cancer.
Just ask patients at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The facility has started passing out coloring books to patients seeking chemotherapy and other treatments. The center is treating coloring like a standard resource for cancer patients, situating coloring books and art supplies alongside its collection of movies and games traditionally offered to help patients relax during their visits.
According to Kathleen Lorain, who leads the center’s art programs, the center has found coloring to be effective at reducing stress. Lorain explained to NewsMedical that creative activities like coloring activate the right side of the brain; on the contrary, stress and worry stimulate the left side. That change allows the left side to “quiet” down, alleviating anxiety, which is common among cancer patients.
“Because they’re occupied with thoughts such as ‘what color do I use?’ and ‘how should I color this part?,’ their right brain can relax and give them a break from difficult thoughts about procedures, their diagnosis, pain and the like,” Lorain added.
The UC Davis books include pages with abstract patterns, as well as nature and holiday scenes.
While those materials provide stress-relief, another new book is looking to add some humor to the activity.
“Hello My Name Is Cancer” is an adult coloring book designed specifically for cancer patients. The book features tongue-in-cheek activities like a word search titled “Find the Lump,” a coloring page of “chemo cocktails” and a word scramble of cancer-related terminology.
While some may be surprised by its overt tone, the book was written by a cancer survivor, who describes in the foreword that she wants “Hello My Name Is Cancer” to serve as a resource for cancer patients, helping them make light of what she knows can be a scary situation.
“Cancer isn’t funny,” creator Kim Kovel writes. “We know that. You know that. Everyone knows that. There’s no right, or wrong, way to approach it, but what helps us cope is laughter.”
The book elicits laughs by showing the frustrating commonality of situations many cancer patients have likely faced: like the dreaded “How are we feeling today?” question or the muddled effects of “chemo brain.”
“Hello My Name Is Cancer” not only gives patients an entertaining outlet through which they can explore their creativity, it illustrates to them that they are not alone — and that community can be an effective support.
As Kovel writes, “We didn’t want you in our club, but now that you are, we’re here to help!”