A long hallway in the Radiation Therapy Center of Morris Hospital leads patients to the treatment area.
But the walls in that hall are blank no more.
Three canvases of painted acrylic trees now hang on those walls. Two paintings are “vibrant with colorful leaves,” according to a news release from Morris Hospital. The last and largest tree is nearly bare, for now. Staff call that tree the Tree of Hope.
Sherah Stice, a Morris Hospital radiation therapist, feels the trees do more than brighten the walls.
“We didn’t want patients walking into a dark room that could possibly be scary to them when coming for therapy or treatment,” Stice said. “And we wanted them to put their mark on them, leave their mark on us.”
Patients may add their thumbprint to the Tree of Hope when they complete treatment. Since the paintings were installed in February, one patient has left his print. And he was extremely honored to do so, Stice said.
“He was so thankful he got to be a part of what we did,” Stice said. “He was a very gracious, thankful patient who appreciated the time we took with him and the care we gave him and his family.”
In addition, staff added two thumbprints each that Stice has transformed into butterflies around the canvas.
“The butterflies represent hope and change,” Stice said.
Stice said a co-worker who has since left the center suggested the idea of creating the artwork. The co-worker painted one; Stice, who finds therapeutic value in creative pursuits, painted the other two, Stice said.
“I really like giving back; everyone here does in our department,” Stice said. “We want them to have a happy, successful journey through their cancer treatments, regardless of what that journey looks like.”
However, the artwork is a “double-edged sword,” Stice said. Although staff look forward to seeing the trees “filled in” with the thumbprints of all the people they helped, staff also knows each thumbprint belongs to someone who had cancer, Stice said.
When patients complete treatment, they ring a bell three times and read a saying on the wall, Stice said. Available staff and patients’ family members – when possible – attend the ceremony, Stice said. Patients receive a diploma, a bell and a “guardian angel to watch over them,” before they leave, Stice said.
“No one wants to come here,” Stice said. “But we want to make it as uplifting as possible.”
Stice said staff adds positivity throughout the year. For example, staff may give patients candy in stockings at Christmas and hand out flowers on St. Patrick’s Day.
“And next week is daffodil day, so we’ll give all our patients daffodils in vases,” Stice said.
So the Tree of Hope is another way staff can support patients in their cancer journey.
“We know that it might be hard,” Stice said. “But there is hope.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle