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‘Visible Ink’ program offers creative outlet for cancer patients

By Stacey Sager

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    NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — Cancer patients deal with their struggle in so many different ways, some more private than others. But at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a program called “Visible Ink” has been putting cancer journeys out to the public, front and center, as an art form.

Many of them were able to share their stories through performances Monday night.

For some, the best way to get through cancer is to write about it.

Singer-songwriter Catherine Porter, who beat bladder cancer but lost a kidney, wrote a song that was performed by singer Shannon Rugani.

She wrote it through “Visible Ink” at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, which allows thousands of patients like Porter to vent, to share stories, even to joke even about their journeys.

Porter made her organs the characters for a musical she hopes to create, which is how she sent her kidney, “Kiki,” packing.

“And then I could put stuff in her, like what I called my ‘negativity stash,'” she said. “You know, my ex-husband.”

In a poetry piece called “Breasts,” a mastectomy patient describes her journey.

“She would look at her body with grief,” it reads. “She would look at her body and give thanks.”

The program was founded by Judith Kelman.

“They choose pieces, so that some are about cancer, some are not about cancer,” she said.

The mentors for Visible Ink, who either perform or just help the patients, are often stars who volunteer.

“We have performers from ‘Hamilton,’ from ‘Hadestown,'” Kelman said.

The collaborations offer a bittersweet opportunity participants appreciate despite the circumstances.

“My mentor just happens to be the brilliant Bill Persky, who wrote ‘That Girl’ and ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,'” Porter said. “And I literally was like, are you kidding me? This is who my mentor is? That’s amazing.”

All of it is made possible through donations and for 14 years now, so the performances don’t cost the patients a thing.

Porter just hopes her song can somehow be a source of strength, emotional strength, so critical to survival.

For more on Visible Ink and to learn how to donate, visit the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s website:

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