The following was my final project for a course I took in “Medical Humanities” earlier this year. I felt blessed to be given an opportunity to express my experience as a mother, caregiver, and artist in this way.
As the authors I have referenced pointed out, treatment of a disease extends beyond treating the disease in of itself. Attending to a person’s humanity helps pull everyone through:
Final Project – Painting, Option 2
Acrylics on 12 x 16 Canvas
This painting depicts a nurse dyeing the hair of a nine year old female cancer patient in the bathroom of her hospital room. This is image is brought forth from memory. The patient is my daughter Natasha who was diagnosed with 1st stage Burkitt’s Lymphoma when she was nine in 2001 (she survived!). Before undergoing her second round of chemotherapy, she wished to have her hair dyed pink before it fell out. Her nurse was kind enough to offer to help. She went above and beyond her duty while defying hospital room rules. Overall, this painting represents the bridge of caring from hospital staff to patient that provides hope amid suffering.
The hospital room is dark because it was not only the evening when this occurred, but it represents the devastating fear, sadness and anxiety we had. In the chair pictured on the right, we stewed in our emotions below the surface while thinking of ways to keep the mind of this bright child busy and happy. The door is partially open to conceal the act of dyeing hair from other hospital staff in the hallway. And it also represents an opening of having hope. The extraordinary care and attention my daughter received from hospital staff, friends and family helped us get through those hard times and helped us have faith and hope that she would be alright. The IV pole that she was constantly attached to was like an additional limb. The TV on the upper right corner played movie and after movie and it became our companion. The balloon on the left symbolizes the comfort received in the midst of darkness.
As Cassel points out, human suffering is not limited to physical pain (Cassel, 1982). Suffering from cancer produces fear and anxiety. Although chemotherapy is a treatment, its side effects cause isolation and results in loneliness. Cassel also asserts that there is more to a person than just body and mind. He said, “Personhood has many facets, and it is ignorance of them that actively contributes to a patients’ suffering”(Cassel, 1982). This experienced oncology nurse understood the changes her young patient was enduring and the challenges that were ahead of her.
The nurse’s assistance was extraordinary. Moyle, Barnard and Turner explain that as science and technology in the health care field developed and advanced over the years, nursing education adapted by emphasizing a focus in these areas (Moyle, Barnard & Turner, 1995). As a result, compassionate awareness and caring has been de-emphasized and even lost. In fact, they add it may only develop through experience and critical reflection (Moyle, Barnard & Turner, 1995).
Cassel, E.J., (1982). The Nature of suffering and the goals of medicine. New England Journal of Medicine. 306(11), 639-645.
Moyle, W., Barnard, A., & Turner, C. (1995). The humanities and nursing: using popular literature as a means of understanding human experience. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 21(5), 960-964 5p. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.1995.21050960.x