Children visitors at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

I can’t imagine that the prospect of a day out in a hospital with a parent receiving treatment is a great one for children.   Nor is it for the parent.   The wait can be long.   A meeting with the doctor needs focus and attention.   There can be a number of appointments and procedures to attend and get through.   

Many children accompany their parents to Peter Mac during school holidays, and sometimes when the person receiving treatment is from the country, the whole family comes to Melbourne.  Some make return journey in one day, whilst others stay here for a period of time.   It can be  exciting, unsettling, tiring and worrying for them.

Many families come to the hospital from regional centres.  The city is both exciting and daunting, hospital visits can mean  long and boring days for them.

The first visit to the hospital is a particularly daunting one for most people receiving treatment as well as for their family. Children can absorb this anxiety.  Parents themselves may not know how treatment will unfold and most will want to shield their children from their own anxiety around cancer, or what may be an uncertain future.  Nonetheless, over time as things settle, children, as well as their parents and relatives, become used to the hospital goings-on and relax a bit.

The Art Table in the specialist clinics waiting room is an unexpected bonus for families.  Although the Art Table is predominately used by adults, children tend to naturally gravitate to it and to creativity; they soon become absorbed in  art-making.  Whilst their children are engaged in art making, their parents can talk, gather their thoughts, fill out forms and prepare themselves for their appointments knowing that their children are happy.  


The lead-up to Christmas is a busy time in the clinics – longer wait times and more people to see their doctors.  Children created some beautiful Christmas-themed artworks for our light-box art project.  


Parents who have been coming for a while and know the routine enjoy the waiting time creating art with their child/ren – making what could be a very boring few hours into something joyous, meaningful and fun.  

This family has been coming to the clinics off and on since my first day, earlier this year.   They are comfortable and quite relaxed spending an hour or so at the art table.  The treatment is finished and I was so delighted to share a creative time with them over Christmas.

Many children become so engrossed that they stay at the table whilst their parents attend their appointment/s.   Dealing with cancer treatments is not an easy time for parents – they want to remain strong for their family – but they are on what is likely to be an emotionally and physically challenging health journey and they also need a time and place to discover and express the implications of this.  With children cared for and active,  parents can take a few moments to absorb what is going on with their health.

Holly is no stranger to the hospital or the art table.   She is busy making a reindeer whilst her mother attends her appointment.  The postcard is from an earlier visit when our theme was Stripes.