SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --A groundbreaking program to help cancer patients and others is now expanding to UCSF's new hospital at Mission Bay in San Francisco.
"Before, it was really scary to just sit with my emotions," remembers cancer survivor Hideka Suzuki. "Art gives me a chance to really understand and even sometimes identify what I'm feeling."
For Suzuki, art is a road map, tracing a sometimes frightening journey that began with a diagnosis of cancer.
"I was originally diagnosed in 2009 with uterine cancer," she says.
Next came the twisted combinations of surgeries and chemotherapy, relapse and remission. But there was also an inner journey -- a search for strength to fight the cancer that led Hideka to the Art for Recovery program as UCSF. It is a place where patients can channel fears and victories onto paper.
"I also feel like my faith has been strengthened. Now that I've been here for a while, I'm more confident with myself and who I am," Suzuki says.
Cindy Perlis runs the program, which provides space, materials, instruction and even exhibits. She says the program, based at Mount Zion Hospital, has become so popular it's now expanding to UCSF's new, state-of-the-art cancer center under construction at Mission Bay.
"We're really excited about creating an open art studio in this space," Perlis says walking into an open area filled with light.
She says the plans include spaces for new exhibitions, works of the human heart, physical transcendence, fear of the unknown and the courage to face it.
"There's not a lot of places where people can come and say, 'You know what, this stinks,' or 'Life is really unfair,' or 'I have tremendous hope,' or 'I'm going to make it through this somehow,'" Perlis says.
Loretta Bozung was a sculptor, before her battle with ovarian cancer. She says, "You adapt. I think that's what being sick is about. You really learn that you just have to change courses."
Suzuki has been out of treatment for six months, but still faces a nerve-wracking road of scans and check-ups. She says she'll face it all with a new kind of strength that emerged from her own artwork.
"I had, I may have cancer again. It may come back, but I'm going be OK," Suzuki says.
The new hospital complex at Mission Bay, including the art center, is scheduled to be completed in about six months, with an official opening in February.
Written and produced by Tim Didion
For more on the Art for Recovery program click here.