The hugely talented Marina Constantinou, Spread a Smile’s resident face-painter, artist and finance manager, has recently added to her repertoire to help take the fear out of radiotherapy for young cancer patients in London, by hand painting their radiotherapy masks.

It is compulsory for patients undergoing radiotherapy, to wear mesh, harsh-looking masks which cover the child’s entire face and can also stretch all the way over their shoulders too. Once the patient is lying on the radiotherapy bed itself, the masks are then fastened to the bed to hold the patient in place. This can be a terrifying and traumatic experience for any person, let alone a child. So, artist Marina offered to personalise each mask for every child requiring treatment, thereby helping to remove an element of fear and spark an element of interest and fun at a time when everything is so daunting and terribly scary.

Having worked closely with Laura Walters, a Play Specialist at University College London Hospital, Marina inquired as to the type of paints and technicalities appropriate for the masks and for the treatment itself, and discovered that water based acrylic paints worked best and were in no way detrimental to the patients or the effectiveness of the treatment. Having had every aspect approved and checked by UCLH, Marina excitedly set to work creating the most magnificent designs. Marina now regularly pops along to UCLH to design masks to a child’s specific requirements.

From Sylvanian Squirrels, to Spiderman, Minions, Manchester City, Yoda and Unicats, the list of designs so far has been very varied. Marina aims to speak directly to the young patients and their parents in advance of their treatment, so that each request is taken into account and noted before she sets to work. Some children have even asked for their names and start dates of treatment to be painted onto the masks too.

Marina said “My intention is to make the masks truly personalised and turn them from looking cold, terrifying and austere, to almost looking like a piece of fun dressing up attire. From the feedback I’ve had so far, I know some of the children have accepted their treatment more readily and have not been so fearful of wearing their mask.”

Currently we offer this service at UCLH.