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September 4 , 2012
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but imagine learning that the treatment for your condition will involve lying on a radiation table, wearing a mask which covers your face and is secured down to the table, rendering you immobile. Tiny holes across the mask will provide minimal vision as the radiation treatments are administered, and depending on your treatment plan, you may need to endure these treatments over and over again. This would be a nerve wracking thought to any adult with claustrophobia concerns. Now imagine receiving that news at the age of eight.
This is the daunting reality for dozens of children receiving cancer treatment each year at the London Regional Cancer Program. But thanks to the efforts of Radiation Therapist Jessica Csoborko, treatments are becoming a little less intimidating, and in some cases, even a little bit fun.
When Csoborko was introduced to a young radiation patient a few months ago, she was warned by his mother that he would never stay still long enough to receive his radiation therapy. He was anxious, frightened, and quite frankly, just an active boy. During a conversation with the child, she learned that he was a superhero fan, with Captain America being his favourite. This presented the perfect opportunity to address how Captain America would handle a challenge such as radiation, and how brave he would be, using his superhero powers to be completely still while he received treatment. When the child arrived for his first radiation treatment the following week, Csoborko was there to meet him with a surprise – with a little creativity and a lot of heart, she had painted his white plastic radiation mask to resemble his hero, Captain America. Treatments were suddenly less of a challenge, and not nearly as scary, because it wasn’t going to be the child receiving treatment – it was Captain America himself.
"Many times we have to sedate children prior to treatment because of their anxiety. If we can avoid that by offering them little comforts such as these personalized masks, then it’s well worth it,” says Csoborko.
Following the success of this superhero mask makeover, Csoborko has continued using her spare time to help other paediatric patients feel more comfortable with their treatments, and has most recently completed a mask to resemble Grover from Sesame Street.
"Jessica’s efforts to create a comfortable and nurturing environment for her young patients are a great example of the compassion and professionalism London Health Sciences Centre strives for every day. It is incredible to think that these children are leaving treatment with positive, happy memories. I don’t think we can ask for anything more than that”, states LHSC president and CEO Bonnie Adamson.
Jessica shares an example of the type of mask she's able to create.