Monday, December 27, 2010

Gallery: "Quality of life"

This is another installment to our Gallery Series. As a reminder, I generally pick something related to palliative medicine and then begin an online hunt to find art work and poetry with this word or phrase in the title.  Hopefully this becomes a stepping point for further thought and exploration.

All art work is copyrighted to the artist (often only a screen name is known), and listed in sequential order at the end. For further Gallery posts, links are provided for convenience at the bottom.

Today's Gallery theme is "Quality of Life", so picked secondary to this phrase's essential part in the definition of palliative care.

The definition of QOL from
Quality of life (n): Your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort).

"Quality of Life" copyright Harley.

Pain roils within me, without
Despair assails me, and doubt
What is the use of all this striving for survival?
What is the quality of this persistent life?
A Fleshy form twisted into tangled knots
And mind cramped with bitter regret
The sun shines, but darkness covers me with futility
Soul stripped to the bone
Thousand-yard stare fixed on far horizon
Sane men call me mad

"Quality Of Life - Poem" (Aug. 2000) by A.K. Whitehead

I have lived a life-- or two,
depending where the line is drawn.
What has been accomplished
is, as if it were, undone,
and what remains undone 
is the heel that kicks the spur. 
Life, time, accomplishment
define each other...
and their exclusions
rising like pale mountain ranges
whose heights perceptibly increase
with their proximity

Finally a poem read by the author herself.  This is "Quality of Life" by poet Harryette Mullen. It is a part of her 5th collection, the book entitled Sleeping with the Dictionary (2002)

Art work displayed:
"Quality of Life" (2010) Sandy Brooke
"Quality of Life" (2007) spotandbones
"Quality of Life Painting" (2007) Patrick Sheridan

Past gallery posts: "Itch", "Dysphoria","Last Breath", "Pain", "Afterlife", "Restless","Stillness" and "Grief"

Monday, December 27, 2010 by Amy Clarkson · 4

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jimmy V

I seem to find palliative care topics everywhere. Most recently it was while watching basketball. Well, while my husband was watching basketball. The tournament he was watching on December 7th was the Jimmy V Basketball Classic. During the game they advertised Jimmy V Week. So it got me wondering, who was Jimmy V?

Jimmy V (or Jimmy Valvano) was a famous college basketball coach and sports broadcaster, known for being the head coach at North Carolina State University when they one the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament. (He is especially known for running around after that game, looking for someone to hug.) In 1992, he was diagnosed with bone cancer.

After his diagnosis he co-founded the V Foundation for Cancer Research with ESPN. Since it was founded in 1993, the V Foundation has raised more than $100 million for their cause.

Below is a famous ESPY Awards speech given by Valvano in 1993 (the very first ESPY awards) while receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award. This speech was given just 8 weeks before he died. It was during this speech that Valvano announced the formation of the V Foundation. He ends this speech with, "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all."

Sports stories are not my usual topic but when I saw the speech he gave, I knew it was a Pallimed Arts story. You could tell when he walked up onto the stage that he was not really doing well. But when he spoke, he had so much energy and humor that I found myself forgetting about the cancer.

Monday, December 20, 2010 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 0

Monday, December 13, 2010

Photographer Jack Radcliffe

Jack Radcliffe is a photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland.  Known for his documentary style, black and white photographs, he has excelled at photo series of family members and friends over a span of time.  His images display intimacy allowing the viewer an empathetic connection at once.

It is no surprise, then, that Jack was asked in 1996 to become a part of an exhibition and book supported by the Corcoran Gallery of Art , entitled "Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry" (Bulfinch Press, 1996).

The book incorporates the works of 5 photographers; Jack Radcliffe, Jim Goldberg, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann and Kathy Vargas.

Jack acknowledges his fear when first asked to be a part of the project saying, "When I began I wasn't really sure what hospice was. I only knew that it had to do with death."  He got in contact with a hospice in York, PA called York House AIDS Hospice and the director Joy Efema granted him permission to come photograph. The York House was a three bed inpatient facility that no longer exists.  Primarily taking care of AIDS patients, Jack writes how fortuitous it was to start this project after the death of his own mother, "My mother had just died, and my father was dying. I wasn't dealing at all with my loss. Being with Joy and the nurses at York House - seeing their devotion to patients, both physically and spiritually- helped me to view death as a part of life. It was a cathartic transformation for me, and eventually I was able to grieve for my parents as well as the patients I came to know."

When you look through the photographs on Jack's website, you'll find a narrative below the pictures from Barbara Ellen Wood, who was assigned as an intern to keep a journal during the project.  I found the little vignettes and descriptions added to the visual story presented.

The project took 4 years to complete, and artistically, using just 3 rooms over and over again proved a different challenge for the photographer.  Attempting to reveal the relationship with the subjects' environment, without causing the viewer to notice the repetitive background caused Jack to move in closer and change perspective, which ultimately changed his long term photographic style.

While his images, which were taken over a decade ago, should be overly familiar to us in palliative care, I found myself touched and moved more than expected. Perhaps these photo's actually allow me to step back and feel the emotion captured more than my typical myopic view in the midst of daily work.

All images copyrighted to Jack Radcliffe. Quotes from the blog Camera Obscura (2009)

Monday, December 13, 2010 by Amy Clarkson · 0

Monday, December 6, 2010

Aidan's Monsters

I found this story in a recent CNN article. Five year old Aidan Reed was diagnosed with leukemia in September of this year. Aidan immediately began treatment. With a new baby at home (born 12 days after Aidan's diagnosis), his father had to take leave from work to help out. Financially, things quickly got bad for Aidan's family and they even discussed having to sell there house.

Aidan loves to draw and he loves to draw monsters. (To the right is Gillman, one of Aidan's favorite monsters to draw.) After his aunt received some of his drawings, she had an idea of how to financially assist Aidan's family. She set up an Etsy account called Aidan's Monsters and began selling Aidan's art. For those of you not familiar, Etsy (one of my favorite websites) is an online forum for people to sell there homemade art, clothes, jewelry etc. Aidan's monsters were so popular that the family made $83,000 in just a few weeks. You can see more of Aidan's art on his blog.

A few things I found interesting about this story. First is the very clever use of Etsy for fundraising (again, one of my favorite websites). Aidan's aunt is only selling the pictures (prints) for $12 each and managed to sell around 7000.

Another thing was the obvious parallels people were making with Aidan drawing monsters while fighting a "monster" himself. I even read somewhere that the monsters were some kind of subconscious manifestation of his fight. Really? Can't he just be a five year old boy who really likes to draw monsters. Wouldn't that be a much more likely explanation.

Reading this story also introduced me to a series I hadn't read on, entitled Empowered Patient. It was started by Elizabeth Cohen after her newborn daughter accidentally got an unnecessary spinal tap. She writes on different topics like how to get the most out of your doctors visit and how to talk to children about illness.

Monday, December 6, 2010 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 0