With Knowledge Comes Power at Westmead Hospital

Staff at Westmead Hospital’s Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre are the stars of two new videos designed to give newly diagnosed patients peace of mind. A film project With Knowledge Comes Power was recently unveiled in conjunction with health content specialists Tonic Health Media, and was funded by Dry July.

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The films take viewers on a tour of the facility led by staff, who answer frequently asked questions by patients about to start chemotherapy and radiation therapy. “It was something all of us at the centre have been talking about doing for a long time,” Cancer Centre Medical and Network Services Manager Jenny Butler said. “Patients often tell us ‘I don’t remember being told that’ and we believe that that is because they get so much information up front immediately after the diagnosis and often can’t take it all in. The video which they can access at home via our website or a CD allows them to digest the information in their own time, thus preparing them for the road ahead and hopefully allaying their fears of the unknown.”

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Staff consulted patients on the script, including Henry Wegwitz. Henry wishes the video existed when he was diagnosed. "The first steps would have been easier knowing what was going to happen,” he said. “The video prepares them for what’s coming and what to expect,” he said.

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Tonic Health Media scripted and produced the videos.

The videos will soon be available online and included in information packs for new patients.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Arterie

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Dry July is proud to continue funding Chris O’Brien Lifehouse complementary therapy program Arterie. Arterie supports the COB LIfehouse holistic approach to cancer patient care through an innovative participatory arts program. Arterie’s mission is to improve outcomes for patients, families, carers, staff and visitors by easing the side effects of cancer and its treatment (stress, pain, fatigue, isolation and depression) as well as providing a therapeutic distraction from treatment through art engagement and participation. 

The program uses paints, paper and pencils alongside state-of-the-art surgical equipment and internationally-trained specialists to provide innovative patient support.

Arterie team members, otherwise known as “Arterists”, are formally-qualified artists, designers, architects and educators who deliver the multi-pronged programs in bright orange aprons to all stakeholders - patients, carers, family, volunteers and staff including clinical, admin and executive.

Chief clinical officer Michael Boyer said, “Having an art program is one more aspect of looking after the whole patient. There is more to good cancer care than performing the right operation or prescribing the best medicine. Arterie is something that really helps us look after our patients”.

Arterie Co Founder/Director Amanda Solomon said: “The art is a conduit for conversation and communication. Our aim is to normalise the Lifehouse experience and environment, to make it look and feel less clinical using art practice, art education and art installations. It’s about engaging and focusing on non-medical issues, and having some fun in an otherwise stressful situation.“

Arterie Co Founder/Director Deborah Burdett said: “We get patients and visitors chatting with each other. We see large, burly men, hunched over, intent on colouring in rainbow hues to a butterfly’s wings. Patients sit, stitch and chat with each other. The repetitive nature of some art and craft making activities can be a great stress reliever and people can relax and not think about their illness for once.”

Patient Belinda Ellis is a mother, a teacher and wife healing from stage three breast cancer. She said, “I think that being kept busy was paramount in my maintaining a positive outlook during my treatment. The Day Therapy waiting room can be a sombre place and having happy, orange people pushing these carts filled with art pack surprises made the waiting easier.

“It’s not just medical treatment of the body that makes us get better.”