The Big C
Marsha Hammond is using her creativity to help patients stay positive during chemotherapy.
By Jessica Bizik
Photography by Chris Crews
“Never did I think my MICA art degree would end up disrupting the healthcare industry,” says art educator and graphic designer, Marsha Hammond, who won her battle with breast cancer in 2015.
“When I first got diagnosed, I knew that that I could handle physical part of chemotherapy. Dealing with my hair falling out and all that stuff. That’s temporary,” she continues. “But I was worried about the mental aspect, because the environment where I would be receiving treatment was not conducive to having a positive mindset.”
Marsha hated the idea of the chemotherapy bags marked “biohazard” in bright yellow and orange—and how the nurses, understandably, had to wear all sorts of protective gear to shield themselves from the poison that would be pumping through her veins for hours at a time.
An RN friend, who also happened to be a yoga teacher and reiki master, offered an alternative suggestion: “Why don’t you think of the drug as something else? Love, light, or whatever you need to believe is inside that bag to welcome it into your body?”
As an artist, Marsha realized she could do even better. She could rebrand it.
Enter Dhremo (pronounced Dream-oh) Therapy, a line of apothecary-themed IV decals and other products (tote bags, water bottles, gratitude journals) to make the chemo experience more positive. Each set of labels includes five different designs—Miracles, Hope, Vitality, Love & Light, and Clarity—which patients or practitioners can peel and stick right onto the back of the IV bags. She also makes circus-themed labels for children.
You might wonder why, in this age of modern technology and science, Marsha looked to the past for her design inspiration. In part, she says, it’s because she grew up on a farm in Virginia and simply loves the aesthetic. But she also likes the purity of the message.
“Back when traveling medicine shows and apothecaries would come into town, everything was so absolute. Their slogan was basically, ‘WE WILL CURE ALL!’ Just take this miracle elixir,” she says. “Today, patients are bombarded with so many conflicting stats, it’s impossible to understand your true odds. Plus, I liked the idea of adding a little magic.”
In addition to selling the labels on Dhremo.com, Marsha has partnered with a number of hospitals, including Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where they are using Dhremo as part of a clinical trial to test the efficacy of using positive branding to (hopefully) improve outcomes for kids undergoing cancer treatment.
“It’s more than just stickers,” she says. “It’s about helping to create tools that change mindsets in the clinical setting.”
Next summer, Marsha will host a rejuvenating retreat for nurses at Mount Shasta in California, where they can learn about mindfulness, energy healing, and self-care for educational credits. And her big dream is to buy an RV and kick off a coast-to-coast Dhremo Road Show.
“As humans, we all have access to the healing superpowers of mind and spirit, but so often these go untapped,” she says. “I think of myself as a modern-day medicine woman, opening this door to the possibilities we already hold inside.”