He sings, he paints, he writes…Carson Lenington-Stewart takes in just about everything there is to do at our Emily Cooper Welty Expressive Therapy Center.
The 10-year-old cancer survivor, who spent many days and nights in the hospital over the past 18 months, is such a regular at the therapy space that writing teacher Nicki Robinson calls him its mascot.
“It’s a time when we can see on his face he’s not worried, not stressed out,” said his dad, Scotty Stewart. “We can see the kid in him again. He’s had to grow up so fast.”
Carson, of Akron, was just one of many patients who took part in the recent Create, Heal, Inspire arts showcase at the center. During the June 13 event, guests enjoyed poetry readings, dance and music performances and a display of patient art.
That evening, Carson impressed guests – who included Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan (shown in top photo collage) – with his contributions. He read a poem he wrote and sang the Zach Williams song “Old Church Choir” to the accompaniment of music therapist and guitarist Jessica Cole-Robinette. His alcohol ink abstract tiles were also on display (as seen in top photo collage).
Carson’s illness started with what seemed like cold symptoms: coughing, runny nose and night sweats. But it was eventually discovered that he had a tumor on his right bronchial tube. The day after his 9th birthday, he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After 6 rounds of chemotherapy, he was cancer free for 2 months.
But the cancer came back, requiring more aggressive treatment and a bone marrow transplant, which took place last December and led to a 60-day hospital stay. He returned recently for a week to have a pericardial window procedure to relieve fluid in his heart. Next up is a lung biopsy.
While hospital visits aren’t Carson’s favorite thing, the art-centered activities offered by the Expressive Therapy Center have given him a way to face his health challenges head on. He first took advantage of it from his hospital bed, and later ventured to programs in the center on the hospital’s sixth floor.
“Just to have fun,” he said when asked why he likes the center so much. During a practice session a week before his musical performance, he said he wasn’t nervous about singing in front of a crowd.
Scotty added that because of Carson’s illness, he’s been unable to attend school or participate in sports and scouting, which were his favorite pastimes. He credits the Expressive Therapy Center with giving Carson the chance to explore the arts and find some new hobbies during his treatment and recovery.
“We love the hospital, all the doctors and nurses,” Scotty said. “We’re confident he’s in the right place.”
Carson is a young man of few words when it comes to saying what he gets out of the center, but perhaps he said it best in this line from his poem “Life with Carson:” With a crayon I can color my way out of anger and into life.