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Bristol radiotherapy mask painting workshop

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Spread a Smile delivers some incredible art initiatives for children and young people across our NHS hospital partners, including art workshops which support creativity and distraction and bespoke murals which enrich hospital wards and windows, helping to make the hospital environment more welcoming.

Another important part of the charity’s art programme is the personalisation of radiotherapy masks for children and teenagers going through treatment for brain, head and neck cancer.

The programme is delivered by Spread a Smile’s Head of Art, Marina, who works closely with patients preparing for radiotherapy treatment to find out their interests and how they would like their masks decorated. Sometimes a patient draws their own sketch and then Marina will take the ideas and create a bespoke and individual decoration for the mask. The process helps to make the mask less frightening, and experience shows that the patient often becomes very proud of their mask.

Last month Marina visited Spread a Smile’s NHS hospital partner Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital to deliver a special radiotherapy mask training workshop for oncology play specialists from the hospital. The aim was to share our skills and understanding of this important activity with the team at Bristol to enable to them to support patients under their care with their designs.

Each attendee came with their own radiotherapy mask and Marina shared different techniques and ideas for painting the masks using special posca pens. Everyone chose their own design and painted their own mask, to experience the process for themselves, before engaging in a useful discussion about how the masks and painting can be used as a preparation tool for patients needing the masks, helping to make them less worrying.

Britney Wookey, Oncology Play Specialist at Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital took part in the workshop saying, “It’s been long awaited for us to be able to paint radiotherapy masks and thanks to Spread a smile our patients will be offered to help design and paint their mask if they wish. Radiotherapy can be a scary treatment for a child at first but being able to decorate their mask so it is unique to them will give them a sense of control and choice. We now have band new kit gifted by spread a smile and their lovely artist, Marina, taught us some of her amazing art skills. Now we can’t wait to bring our patient’s ideas to life!”

Spread a Smile is proud of this bespoke area of work which reaches and supports young cancer patients during one of the most terrifying times of their lives. As one Mum said, “My son didn’t mind wearing his mask once it was painted and enjoyed talking with other children about what they had on their masks. He was so proud to show it to people. We now have it home and it is a prized possession on his desk which he proudly shows to everyone who comes in. His mask was his protection, and he was proud of what he had been through.”

To find out more about Spread a Smile’s services, please click here.