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The Art of Humankindness

The Art of Humankindness

August 28, 2023 Posted in: Patients & Providers  3 minute read time


Many patients with cancer who need radiation therapy to the head or neck are fitted for a moldable plastic mask to keep their head still during treatment. At CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, many of these radiation masks have style, thanks to radiation therapist Cristi Ballard, RT(R)(T).

“I paint our patients’ masks with whatever they’re interested in or makes them happy,” Ballard said. “Some of the designs and images I’ve painted include Zorro, Superman, Superwoman, Pink Floyd, flowers, butterflies, eyelashes and ladybugs.”

Power of a Paintbrush

A conversation with a patient’s family member prompted Ballard to give mask painting a try.

“The family member mentioned this particular patient loved superheroes,” Ballard said. “I thought I could paint something simple on the patient’s mask to bring a smile to his face. After talking it over with a fellow radiation therapist, I painted the mask like Zorro’s. The patient and his family loved it. It made them so happy.”

For Ballard, few moments are more special than presenting patients with their mask.

“It’s so gratifying when a patient sees their painted mask for the first time,” Ballard said. “I love the joy and smiles that it brings.”

The one-of-a-kind masks make memorable keepsakes. Patients get to take them home when they finish treatment.

Doses of Happiness

A radiation therapist for nearly 17 years, most of them at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, Ballard understands the anxiety many patients feel about treatment. That’s why she goes out of her way to put them at ease and create as pleasant an environment as possible. Whether partnering with a coworker to put googly eyes, lips and other silly accessories on a treatment machine or decorating for holidays, Ballard makes patients’ days a little brighter.

“I want our patients to have the best experience possible,” Ballard said. “You never know what people are going through. Positivity goes a long way. When patients are in a positive atmosphere, they seem to do better during treatment.”

Days That Mean the Most

Ballard cherishes the relationships she builds with patients. That’s why helping them celebrate the end of cancer treatment, known as graduation day, is one of the best parts of her job.

It’s an end-of-treatment tradition for Ballard and the other members of the radiation therapy team to sign and present each graduating patient with a customized diploma and a decorative canvas. Patient and staff ring a special bell while celebratory music plays.

“Graduation days are some of the most rewarding,” Ballard said. “Patients can bring their families and friends to join the celebration. It’s wonderful to know I had a hand in making each graduation possible.”

CHI Saint Joseph Health provides expert, compassionate care and support to adults with cancer. Learn more about our cancer care services.

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