The Blue Lady – Pastel

The Blue Lady Pastel by Carla Zwahlen

In the 1980’s my husband and I sat in many waiting IMG_2979 chairs while our son received treatment for a brain tumor, and later neurosurgery to remove  a second brain tumor. At that time I can’t recall a dedicated art program. I do remember drawings the children in pediatrics created.

From 2000 to 2003, it was my husband’s turn to receive chemotherapy treatments, radiation, and surgery for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. During the many visits and  hospital stays, we became familiar with the many corridors at the medical center, and in particular, the                                                                Norris Cotton Cancer Center Hematology-Oncology corridor.

Usually, on our way to the waiting room, we stopped to admire the artwork. For a moment, the artwork lifted us out of our circumstance. We found it extraordinarily thoughtful for a medical center to have a program using art as a tool to help relieve the stress of difficult life-threatening concerns.

My husband often said to me, “Your paintings should hang here.” I chuckled.

While he underwent a six-hour surgery, my family and I spent some of that time walking the corridors to relieve tense muscles and minds. The artwork while beautiful by itself allowed us to step away from the hospital environment. Surrounded by the works of so many artists we were not placed in a sterile impersonal environment.

With each stop, we found a momentary hiding place from all things medical.  The artwork contributed a calmer place. When a family remains calm I believe the family is better able to support their loved one. For us, the artworks became more than decorations to fill empty wall space.

As Werner’s cancer progressed, we had frequent doctor’ visits and hospital stays. During a warm week in June, we spent our last week together. With the gracious help of his medical team, I also made his hospital room home.

Each day I  was apprehensive to leave his room for too long. But as the day progressed, my husband encouraged me to go outside and walk. I did. Along the garden path, I met The Blue Lady, sculpted by, Barbara Kaufman.

The Blue Lady stood with her hand on hip and her chin-up. Her stance caught my attention. She seemed to symbolize defiance in the face of something happening in her world. I said to her, “You are looking and waiting for someone too.”

I thought of the one request asked of me by my husband when we started on the cancer journey;  “You must be brave.”

The Blue Lady sculpture  reminded me each time I walked by  her – stand strong against the coming day when

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center understands the healing elements in art.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Staff functions on a high level of professionalism and medical skill. Patients are not just liver and limbs, they understand their emotional well-being also contributes to healing.

The Artwork offers patients, families and friends an opportunity to step away for a moment from all things medical.


The Blue Lady Pastel is located in Oncology Reception, The North Entrance          Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH

To view my art gallery visit;