People with cancer who are receiving treatment and their carers can spend a lot of time in waiting area of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. It’s an old hospital (soon to move to a brand new facility) and as such has the potential to be a cheerless place. Yet it is not. I work at the hospital once a week; on other days there are musicians, handcrafts and things I have yet to learn about. Tables are alive with bright, new and cheerful jigsaws in progress, volunteers keep up a steady supply of crosswords and quizzes, and also maintain a small library for patients. I learned about a treadmill that has just arrived to encourage patients to keep up their exercise during treatment.
The clinic waiting areas are usually very busy. People are here for a diagnosis, to receive treatment, and for consultations. Some are at the beginning of their treatment, feeling the entire range of emotions a cancer diagnosis will evoke, whilst others are in the middle of their treatment and others are finishing theirs. It is a place where you see a wide range of emotions and accompanying that, an incredible display of the best of humanity.
I run an arts project in the clinic waiting area on Wednesday mornings – creating postcards with patients and carers. This is a follow-on project from the project Radiata held last year at Peter Mac Radiotherapy Clinic in the Monash Medical Centre, Moorabbin. (see Radiata). That project was supported through a grant from Deakin University.
We started the project mainly working with collage – cutting, rearranging colours, images and words and ways that are fairly quick and easy to complete in the time before being called into the clinic. We’ve added fabric, paints, pencils and pastels.
It has been a wonderful place to land; I feel a meeting of minds with regards to health and wellbeing, to offering patients ways to relax, create, say the hard things, enjoy the small things, to focus, exercise, and share.
People can take their work home, but most enjoy contributing it to the postcard wall and it is growing week by week, and as it does, it inspired more and more people to jump in and have a creative go.
I enjoy the conversations with people as they make. The person who created this lives in the hills outside Melbourne and was telling me about the beautiful environment in which she lives. Although she has cancer, her card tells us that she sees her life as being full, and she is grateful for all she has and for the people who surround her.
Makers enjoy the freedom of creating using collage and colour. The trick is to keep adding until it is either finished, or you are called to your appointment!
Some patients are experiencing discomfort and pain and find they can relax when they create and the pain does not feel so intense.
I enjoyed my time with the young woman who created this card (above) – she was disappointed that her diagnosis and treatment intruded on her aspirations to go to art school. I showed her some techniques to develop this style of art into artists books that she might be able to manage during the time she is in treatment.
I spent quite a lot of time with the child who made this and many more cards (above). He could not go to school that day so he had come with his mother, who had cancer, and his father to the centre. Not easy for any of them – he was delighted to be at the art table and make and make and make and whilst the parents could devote themselves to meeting their appointments without overwhelming their child. This child also loved the natural environment and did lots of cards about trees and animals, he was delightful company for me and others at the table.
There is an amazing and inspiring level of positivity and delight in the people who create the cards,
and dreams too. This card reflects the future, when the treatment is finished.
MORE from the clinics : 8 July 2015
The man who made this water colour is confronting the end of the life of a family member as well as his own chronic illness. I really enjoyed our conversation and hearing how he finds comfort and pleasure in art and his support group.
Drawn by a young secondary school boy who came to the clinics with his mother who is receiving treatment. Last week he spent time at the art table and made a terrific collage. His little sister’s work is below.
The picture on the right was made by a woman whose family has experienced much loss over the last few years. She came with her mother who is about to start treatment – she had an amazing capacity to draw this cheerful work in the face of yet another round of visits to the hospital. When the little girl I mentioned above painted the bright card – I thought these two cards just HAD to go together!
our theme this week was stripes :