Medical masks inspired by Ensor | MSK Gent
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Medical masks inspired by Ensor

20240625 AV maskers3

Kom op tegen Kanker asked haematologist Prof Dr Tessa Kerre (UZ Gent) to set up an intimate art project with some patients, inspired by James Ensor, as part of her 'Kunst aan bed' project.

Tessa Kerre brought textile artist Sara Plantefève-Castryck together with two patients, Maggy and Tore, who received radiation masks during their cancer treatment. Radiation masks are personalised prints of the head that immobilise patients during radiation treatment. Artist Sara interacted with Maggy and Tore about their journey with the disease and their treatments. Ensor occasionally looked over their shoulders.

"This mask makes me proud, shows my true self to the world, because expressing emotions is strength."

Maggy (54)

Testimony Maggy (54)

Tears flow incessantly at the news of my cancer diagnosis. I have been battling breast cancer since 2015, lymphoma in my side in 2018, and lymphoma in the brain in 2022. Each time, I was treated with radiation and chemo, which was tough. But amid the pain and grief, a glimmer of hope shone through. So I turned my radiation mask into a work of art that shows my true feelings. With tears and laughter, with love and pain, to let my emotions flow freely. This mask makes me proud, shows my true self to the world, because expressing emotions is power. Without the great love of my husband Dirk, the support of my parents and the chats with my sister Elsy, this would have been much more difficult.

Testimony Tore (25)

As an industrial engineering student in electromechanics three years ago, I faced an unexpected turn of events in my life: the diagnosis of plasmablastic myeloma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that, until recently, was even unknown, which meant that I was suddenly no longer an inconsiderate student like so many, but a terminal patient in a palliative care programme. The fact that I contracted this unknown cancer at such a young age makes it incredibly challenging. The past few years have been a rollercoaster of treatments: from intensive radiotherapy to other therapies, my body endured it all. But the cancer kept manifesting itself, sometimes in unexpected places like my central nervous system, which in itself was a unique challenge.

"The mask I made symbolises the complexity of my experiences since diagnosis."

Tore (25)

Tessa Kerre offered me the opportunity to participate in this workshop. The mask I made symbolises the complexity of my experiences since diagnosis. The many eyes and the blindfold represent my search for identity and my relationship to myself and others. At my age, I would normally look forward to a future full of possibilities, but for me, the future has become less clear, an abstract concept that I have to relate to in a different way.

The symbols on the shoulders symbolise the search for balance again, between my physical and mental health, between dreams and the reality of my illness. The red and black lines on the mask symbolise this inner struggle. The black lines represent being sick, the pain and the many confrontations, while the red lines represent renewed perspectives and the strength of my inner struggle. Tessa Kerre actually put it aptly for me: many things are no longer possible for me because of my illness, but this workshop is something I can just about do, thanks to my illness.