REALTOR® Helps Cancer Patients Cope Through Art

Connecticut real estate pro Carla Presz used arts and crafts to help her ill daughter feel purpose at the end of her life. Now Presz is supplying hospitals with art kits.

Carla Presz’s desk is covered with the rocks she’s collected. She plans to add them to art kits, which she’ll hand out to local hospitals. It’s Presz’s way of honoring her daughter, Lindsay, who died of leukemia at 28. Working on art projects soothed Lindsay in the final days of her life. Presz hopes art will bring comfort to other patients facing difficult medical diagnoses.

Presz, SFR, C2EX, broker-owner of Central CT Homes in Windsor, Conn., founded Lindsay’s Legacy Foundation after her daughter’s death, helping families with terminally ill loved ones harness the sense of peace and intimacy that art can bring. The arts and crafts kits Presz provides hospitals are meant to give patients and their families a project to work on together toward a common goal. “They don’t even have to talk. They can just be together—create together,” Presz says.

She remembers how important that was to her and Lindsay, and to Lindsay’s sister, Stephanie. Presz and Stephanie promised Lindsay they’d never leave her alone during her chemotherapy treatments, essentially moving into her hospital room. They even followed Lindsay when she was transferred to another facility an hour away. “She was away from home and in this confined space,” Presz recalls of Lindsay. “We needed to change the environment so that it didn’t feel like she was so far away from home and struggling through battling with these treatments.”

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Presz and Stephanie redecorated Lindsay’s hospital room with items from home, transforming it into a more familiar space. “Her attitude changed in a really positive way,” Presz says. “Her room didn’t look like a hospital room anymore, and she always had family with her. We think it helped her. It gave her a way to fight this thing a little better.”

Wanting to give Lindsay a distraction from her from the grueling treatments, Presz started doing art projects and crafting with her daughter. “These things ended up all over her room,” Presz says. In her final week of life, Lindsay gathered her family together and, one by one, she gave them words of encouragement and hope. “She wanted us to honor her by living life and being happy, and I thought to myself, ‘Where did she get this strength and thoughtfulness in that moment?’”

After her daughter passed away, Presz held onto the time they spent on the art projects. She thought often about how it brought them both comfort and joy. “We were filling our days producing something tangible and building memories at the same time,” she says, adding that the art projects kept their minds occupied, their hands busy and their hearts full.

Wanting to share this with others who were caring for loved ones facing cancer, Presz started creating the art kits. “We deliver hundreds of packages of arts and crafts to hospitals so that patients can do activities with their families and visitors,” she says. It helps not only patients who feel anxious in the hospital but also family members struggling while watching them endure pain, Presx adds. “The ability to do something tangible might make a visitor who is uncomfortable with the hospital setting maybe stay a little longer or not fear coming.”

Each of the kits is carefully assembled. Patients undergoing cancer treatment have good days and hard days, and they’re not always up for the intricacy of a complicated project, Presz says. The kits are created with this in mind, offering a little of everything so that all can participate.

In addition to the art kits, Lindsay’s Legacy Foundation hosts an annual fundraiser called the “Bee Happy Run.” The proceeds go toward cancer research. The organization is also working on a “patient room upgrade package,” which will help families and visitors transform their loved one’s hospital rooms—much like Presz did for Lindsay.

“We knew that we were blessed, that not many people can leave their lives and go move into a hospital room,” Presz says. “We got to say everything we wanted to say, see the struggles and be there for Lindsay. So, we’re paying that forward. We’re taking the lessons we’ve learned so that we can help others.”