Art for cancer children and for healthcare staff

Assignment for the course Medicine and the Arts, University of Cape Town

For children with cancer (leukemia) spending around 4 months in hospital out of 7-8 months of average treatment is a very hard time. On the one hand, because of the side effects of the citostatics : hair loss, diminished appetite, frequent vomiting, infections, intestinal problems (diarheea), allergies. Treatment with  citostatics require perfusions, which take from 1 to 2 hours. Generally one needs to lie in bed and not move at all- which is most difficult for a child to do. For a child this age is to discover the world, to play, to have fun, to learn. Illness forbids all these activities but we should find ways to open this up and offer children as much as possible for a fast recovery and minimization of stress and pain. A child needs to continue to live his life, he needs adults to support him.  We recommend terapy through playing and also pshycological support to help children overcome the problems induced by medication and isolation. Best support for a child is to offer him facilities to enjoy his childhood: a playground, possibilities to experience nature and the rest of the world- the city, the sky, the soil, water, aso. Everything a human being needs  and has the right to receive in order to be free and enjoy. Nature, playing, education. These children need special events, a hospital school, camps and access to Arts, according to their skills and talents.

“We believe that making art frees the body’s healing mechanisms to heal. We believe it unites body, mind, and spirit. In art and healing, no interpretation or therapy is necessary. The creative process is the healer.”

At the same time, the healthcare staff requires terapy and counseling so as to best adjust to the needs of ill children and also for themselves, to better deal with this complex situation they face daily. On the basis of our rich experience with arts and medicine projects, we fully recommend a specialized programme in this direction, inspired by music and storytelling.  Trained healthcare staff are able to best deal with patients and find every day solutions for a smooth recovery and opportunities to communicate and share positive moments together.  More and more hospitals use the healing powers of art. One example: “Jeffrey Rothenberg, an obstetrician and gynecologist and chief medical officer at Indiana University Health’s University Hospital, says he learned to make glass art himself as a stress reliever. He is chairman of a public art committee for Indiana University School of Medicine’s Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute that called on artists with ties to Indiana to create works for a building devoted to vision.”

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