2018 Winner: Trauma

Project Information
Art 189: Special Topics in Sculpture
A study by UCLA researchers found that young adult survivors of childhood cancer “had more than fourfold greater risk of PTSD” than their siblings who did not have cancer (Stuber et al., 2010). At the age of 5, I was diagnosed with stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Since being in remission, I mainly celebrated my survival and praised my wonderful doctors and nurses, telling myself that I was too young for bad memories from chemotherapy to stick. Transitioning to adulthood and moving away from home (where my parents couldn’t come with me to appointments) led to me avoiding the doctor for years. When a health issue arose, forcing me make an appointment, I thought, “I’ve been to doctors so many times. I don’t see why it would be a big deal.” I was wrong. I learned that going to the doctor is terrifying and being asked to put on a gown is more than uncomfortable, it’s overwhelmingly traumatic. While I always hated going to the doctor and had aversions to small things (such as fruit punch because that was the flavor of the liquid I had to drink before CT scans), my anxieties worsened as I became a young adult. In the last year, I have struggled more with my mental health than ever before. The aim of this piece is twofold: 1) to help me face and move past my trauma, and 2) to bring awareness to the delayed mental health impacts of medical experiences. Illustrating this purpose, the surface of a gurney depicted a collage which transitioned from images of a pain scale (with which I became very familiar) to various mental health intake forms and assessments. Viewers were invited to stand on blocks, allowing them to take a perspective in which they viewed the piece from above, hinting at the power dynamic between doctor and patient. The stack of hospital gowns had multiple meanings: the stack as a whole represented me as an individual, while the repetition of the gowns represented the frequency of my medical experiences as well as the many experiences of others who fought and are fighting battles with cancer.

Stuber, M. L., Meeske, K. A., Krull, K. R., Leisenring, W., Stratton, K., Kazak, A. E., … Zeltzer, L. K. (2010). Prevalence and Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Pediatrics, 125(5), e1124–e1134. http://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2009-2308
  • Sophia Catherine Restall (Merrill)