September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM), and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight healthcare heroes working in paediatric oncology. Radiotherapy treatment can be a daunting time for anyone but especially so for children and young adults. We reached out to Lobke Marsden, Play Specialist at Leeds Children’s Hospital, to talk about the incredible work she does to support patients through treatment at St James's Institute of Oncology.
“Some patients require a radiotherapy mask fastened to the treatment bed to keep them in a still position during treatment. This can be challenging for some," explains Lobke. "A few years ago we started painting our radiotherapy masks in any design the child or young person would ask for. Personalising their mask makes it less scary and for some young children there is even a level of role play involved. We have had many children who dressed up as the character painted on their mask and who felt more confident during treatment by doing so.”
Lobke also described the strength the decorated masks can provide. “One of our young adult patients told us it had been a while where it felt he had a say in anything. Since diagnosis he was told what treatment was needed, where and how long for. He told us it felt empowering to have a say in what he wanted his mask to look like and he mentioned it no longer felt like a clinical device - it felt like his mask.”
Lobke sums up her inspiring approach to helping their young patients:
“We always say; We can’t change a diagnosis but we can help make their treatment experience the best it can be.”
We asked Lobke to nominate OIS’ Charity of the Month and she has chosen the Leeds Hospitals Charity who support work at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, with our funds going to the paediatric radiotherapy area. Lobke does an amazing job painting an array of animals, scenes and characters, and in our eyes, she is a superhero!