Art and Medicine

By Eathan Janney
IMG_1887 Photo by Anthony Ptak. "What the pain feels like from a TBI neurological disorder"

A few days ago Caroline Wellbery, a colleague here at Djerassi, gave a presentation on her work. She is an MD with a PhD in comparative literature. She switched from literature to medicine midway into her career. After a number of years she felt herself gravitating back to the arts and found  unique ways to integrate them into her life as a physician. Her talk focused on the idea that patients can use art to communicate about their illnesses. I am reminded of my friend Anthony Ptak, an electronic musician and artist, who developed brain cancer several years ago. He survived a very rare and deadly type of cancer but in the aftermath of treatment was left with severe pain and the inability to control his left arm, leg and hand. I have long been impressed by how he uses creativity to share about an experiences that are so hard for others to imagine. In an interview with him he said to me that in the deepest moments of dealing with his illness he was literally unable to express creativity. In those moments it seems that art could not help him. Knowing this helped me to more truly understand the extent of his pain. It is a privilege to create freely. I'm glad that I feel I can. I'm deeply thankful that Anthony continues to share creatively about his illness and his life beyond it.
Photo by Anthony Ptak. "Yoga" Photo by Anthony Ptak. "Yoga"