Featured Member: Dr. Sharon Chappell Uses Her Experience and Creativity to Help Families Touch by Cancer
Dr. Sharon Chappell uses her experiences and creativity to help families touched by cancer and other difficulties.
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Read, Feel, Create, Heal
I co-founded Well Beings Studio in 2020 after my journey through breast cancer since 2018. During cancer, I wrote and published a children’s book, Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! a story for families impacted by cancer, and created the Little Green Monster Project, which has donated more than 2,000 copies of the book since November 2018.
Through this project, I learned how relevant my creative arts materials and workshops were, not only to children impacted by cancer but also to those experiencing other traumas and difficult times. Well Beings Studio was born! Our motto is: read, feel, create, heal.
Living and Learning
I hold a Doctorate in Education from Arizona State University, and am a credentialed, bilingual Arts Educator. I am a breast cancer survivor, parent and writer/artist.
During my youth and as a young adult, I experienced multiple medical crises with my father, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma and a heart transplant, as well as terminal Glioblastoma brain cancer last year. All of this has ignited my passion to help children and families in similar situations.
My creative arts and healing workshops have impacted hundreds of families. I have partnered with more than 50 organizations to deliver my book and present workshops to families across the country. I have raised over $60,000 to fund this project, which has served as the model for the establishment of the Well Beings Studio nonprofit organization.
In addition to my nonprofit initiatives, I also work as a Teacher Educator at California State University Fullerton, where I specialize in social emotional learning, the arts and inclusive school climates. My areas of expertise include art educations, social emotional learning, children and youth, poetry and children’s literature.
Be True to Yourself
As a woman, I find it necessary to remind myself about my self-worth; that I am enough and worthwhile as I am. I also need to tell myself that I do not have to do it all, and I definitely don’t have to do it perfectly. My advice to other women: Be the passionate, loving, committed, intelligent, gentle and fun person you are. You are the perfect you.
Despite Challenges, She Persists
I enjoy working with the families and cancer support organizations, building partnerships and designing creative experiences. These are my strengths. Yet, I have struggled with self-worth, depression and anxiety. This mood disorder has been with me since childhood, and while cancer refocused me and my thinking toward positivity, self-care and mindfulness, I still struggle with the isolation of working as a one-woman show.
It is difficult to start a mission-driven project that gains momentum and audience faster than it does funding or staff. I am truly thankful for my family and friends, who are steadfastly encouraging and provide support however they can. Yet, I perform all the functions of a small charity project: director, development and marketing, community engagement, education and administration.
I often wonder if I am adequate at my work. I question myself. I worry. But I persist. I put post-it notes throughout the house with empowering statements to encourage me to continue. I know that what I am doing is worthwhile and meaningful. So, I push through the hard emotions when they come so I can accomplish my goals.
Connecting with other IAW Members
I am hoping IAW will help me connect with other women leaders, and spread the word about our amazing resources for families impacted by cancer.
My goal is to launch the nationwide impact of Well Beings Studio as a resource hub for creative arts resources and experiences for families impacted by cancer, other traumas and hardships. This includes continuing to write and illustrate books, support other authors and illustrators; facilitate arts workshops for impacted families and support other facilitators in regions beyond my own.
This is one of the poems I wrote during breast cancer. I believe it speaks to each of us experiencing the challenges and joys of life:
Trembling hands, I am afraid.
Smiling eyes, I am brave.
Spilling tears, I am angry.
Breathing belly, I am hopeful.
There’s room for all of it.
I walk around doing the day to day:
The dishes, the laundry,
Carrying cancer with me.
I want to hide under a blanket,
relinquish my bravery, give in to sadness.
I want to run miles, insistent on hope.
I want to tell everyone how many emotions I am carrying.
I want to be silent and not tell a soul.
There’s room for all of it.