April 10, 2023

Art an emotional outlet for cancer survivor

Allana Ryan, cancer survivor and featured artist at the Carbone Cancer Center
Allana Randall

Art has always been a joyful hobby for Allana Randall. When she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2020, it became a vital outlet for her emotions during a difficult journey.

Several of her paintings are now on display in the Cancer Symptom Management Clinic at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, including a piece at the reception area that features the word “RESILIENT” interwoven with flowers. She also designed colorful window decals for treatment rooms in that wing.

Randall, 26, said it’s difficult to describe how moved she feels that her work will be seen by others facing cancer treatments.

“It’s really emotional for me because it does feel like it’s come full-circle,” she said. “Chemo is such a terrible thing to go through, so if there’s any little bit of brightness I can give, it makes me so happy to be able to do that.”

Randall was living in Taiwan teaching English in 2020 when she started to notice some persistent health issues: weight loss, fatigue, a lingering cough. She initially attributed it to her body adjusting to living abroad, but eventually made an appointment with a local physician. After she was diagnosed with cancer, she returned home to Middleton to be with family and friends for her treatments.

Because she was immunocompromised during the COVID-19 pandemic, Randall had to be extremely careful about going out or seeing visitors. Still, her family and friends found creative ways to show their love and support to keep her from feeling lonely.

Art was a therapeutic outlet for Randall, including designing upbeat stickers to give to family and friends. A favorite said “cancer succs,” accompanied by colorful succulent plants. Her work began getting a lot of interest from others, and Randall decided to open her own business, Ten by Ten Gallery. Her shop includes apparel, drinkware, stickers and other products, and a portion of each sale is donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She has since donated more than $12,000.

Randall, who has been in remission since November 2021, also attends several local art fairs to showcase her products, which also gives her the opportunity to meet and talk with fellow cancer survivors and those who have a loved one diagnosed.

“I’ve heard so many stories, and it can be really intense and heavy, but it’s interesting how often people open up and want to be heard,” she said. “My booth feels like a safe space where people can share their cancer story and connect with strangers, which isn’t common. Hearing these stories is really a unique and powerful experience for me.”

Mandy Kron, art project manager at UW Health, said she was looking for new art to feature in the newly-remodeled Cancer Symptom Management Clinic when she came across Randall’s work.

“Allana's artwork is bold, bright, and joyful,” Kron said. “Her images are pleasant and I liked that they included positive messages and some familiar images such as the state capital, but in her own unique style.”

Kron seeks to feature local artists throughout the hospital, and Randall being a cancer survivor gives her work an added layer of meaning for patients in treatment. Kron was especially drawn to Randall’s “RESILIENT” painting.

“I've heard very positive feedback from staff and patients that have been especially fond of this piece as well,” Kron said.

While Randall never planned on becoming a professional artist, she feels at peace that the bumps in her life have led her to a positive place.

“It’s a life path I never would’ve chosen, but I feel very grateful for where I am and being able to give back through my artwork,” she said.