Children's Cancer Foundation
Mum Katrina shares Bonnie's story and how the Art Therapy program inspired the April cover of The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal.
Throughout 2021, the front page of The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal will feature artwork created by children from the Royal Children’s Hospital art therapy program. This April, as World Creativity and Innovation week gets underway, we spoke with the creator of this month’s cover Bonnie and her mum.
“Bonnie was thinking about the colourful flowers she enjoyed looking at when she made the artwork. She also loves rainbows which is why she painted the background in a rainbow colour order.”The inspiration behind the April 2021 Lancet Journal front cover
Bonnie had surgery to remove her brain tumour at the end of November 2019, and it was diagnosed as cancer shortly thereafter. Bonnie had four rounds of chemotherapy beginning in March 2020. Prior to that she had 6 week’s radiation at Peter Mac, but was at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, for weekly reviews and pre-chemo appointments.
We first met Bonnie’s Art Therapist Matilda Dawson (Tilly) soon after Bonnie’s brain surgery. We were at the hospital in the pre-admissions area waiting for Bonnie’s MRI which was to be performed under general anaesthetic.
Tilly was there with her art materials, and asked Bonnie if she’d like to make something. Being the day we were due to go home after surgery, Bonnie was desperate to get back home and also incredibly nervous about the procedure, so I wasn’t sure Bonnie would be able to relax enough to take part. However, I was wrong! Bonnie warmed to Tilly right away and spent the time modelling with air drying clay. The change in Bonnie was evident; she enjoyed the experience and it helped reduced her pre-procedure nerves.
The Art Therapy program was also recommended as a treatment support to help Bonnie through the immense fear and anxiety she was experiencing while in hospital for treatment. Bonnie loves anything to do with art and craft and was excited to get involved, so it seemed perfect for her. We were so pleased when Tilly walked in the room that first session! Bonnie remembered Tilly and already felt comfortable with her which was even more important given Bonnie’s emotional state during the beginning of treatment.
Bonnie loved everything about Art Therapy, but she especially loved learning about and experimenting with different art materials, and just spending time creating and chatting with Tilly who always made Bonnie feel happy, safe and special.
Whenever Bonnie was admitted to hospital during treatment, we would often walk around the ward to get her up and out of her room. Bonnie and I would sit in front of some large windows overlooking the hospital grounds and chat about what the weather looked like that day and which plants and flowers we liked in the garden. Bonnie was thinking about the colourful flowers she enjoyed looking at when she made the artwork. She also loves rainbows which is why she painted the background in a rainbow colour order.
Bonnie treasures an A3 sketchbook which she was given to her by Tilly to use when in hospital, both during Art Therapy sessions as well as any other time when she felt the urge to be creative. Bonnie took the sketchbook home after treatment finished, and it is something she now treasures as a memento of the bravery and strength she displayed during her treatment, as well as the fun times she spent with Tilly.
“I am so grateful Bonnie was able to take part in Art Therapy. Bonnie’s treatment occurred when covid restrictions were in place… Because of this, Art Therapy became one of the few ways that Bonnie could interact with someone not involved in the medical side of hospital life.” – Katrina, Mum of Bonnie
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Thank you Katrina for sharing your family’s story with us.
Photo Credit: Katrina, Bonnie’s Mum