Exhibition an insight into cancer treatment
JOURNALIST Michael O’Regan has been writing and speaking about his encounter with cancer. He wrote an eloquent piece in the Weekend Review of ‘The Irish Times’ on Saturday, September 21 and the following Monday, Ryan Tubridy interviewed him on his morning programme. In both newspaper and radio he came across as a person who is dealing with his diagnosis in an inspiring way.
When I went working for The Kerryman newspaper one of the first jobs I was given was to subedit Michael’s weekly column and place it on the page. Every Monday morning, I looked forward to reading his column as it was lively and pertinent to the politics of the day. And of course there was the added bonus that it was perfectly written and there was never need for me to make any corrections.
So naturally when I heard of Michael’s illness I was both shocked and surprised. But talking to him, listening to him on radio and reading his newspaper piece on how he has dealt with his illness I have been greatly impressed with his attitude and indeed, his willingness to talk openly about it. It is evident that he has been most appreciative of the excellent work of the medical teams who have treated him and the hospitals where he has been a patient.
Michael also mentioned the various services of which he has availed. Most oncology hospitals employ psychologists, social workers, chaplains, beauticians, hair stylists and artists. All the services are provided to enhance the general welfare of patients.
St Luke’s Hospital in Rathgar has a putting green. Just two weeks ago a wonderful exhibition of 14 sketches was launched in one of the hospitals where Michael received his treatment. It is on display over the coming months and anyone visiting the hospital can’t miss it as it is on the main corridor leading from reception to the wards. The hospital runs a vibrant Art Centre for its patients.
For the current exhibition 14 patients were selected. Some had no experience of art-making, some were returning to art and some had a background in art. The patients were interviewed and during the interviews, a member of staff in the art room, sketched them. What now appears on the wall in the hospital are 14 sketches of the 14 people interviewed with quotes from what each person said.
All the people who are quoted and sketched attended art sessions in the hospital. The quotes are in a hand-writing font and the paper used is hand-made. They are all anonymous.
To give a flavour of the exhibition, one woman says: ‘Mixing colours made me happy’ and ‘my mood lifted the moment I went into the art room’. Another patient remarks: ‘I felt I could breathe and keep my head above water. Treatment became less overwhelming and more of a side-line.’ And a male patient comments: ‘It felt great to be working on a project every day. I loved it. I started going all the time. I really looked forward to all the sessions.’ Another patient said: ‘I lost myself and found myself in the art sessions.’ A patient, who is a self-taught painter, said: ‘Painting takes away panic, you exist in the moment’.
All 14 paintings, with Perspex coverings, are mounted elegantly on the wall on the main corridor. Accompanying the exhibition is a handout explaining the genesis of the paintings.
Exhibitions like this offer insightful reflections on the experiences of many people, including Michael O’Regan, who are undergoing cancer treatment.