Ex­hi­bi­tion an in­sight into can­cer treat­ment

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

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.

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