Carmel Wilmot

My name is Carmel and I live in Monivea, Galway.

I’m not from there, but I moved here about five years ago and about two years in, my mom had just passed away in February 2019 and I remember after her month’s mind mass I came back, I was feeling unwell and I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and my back was hurting me and I had MRIs and stuff on my back. But long story short, by the August, September that year, I was feeling really unwell and I went to a local GP, and I kind of knew I said, there’s something not right and she examined me and straightaway, I knew by the woman’s face she didn’t have to say anything and she was horrified that I’d been in hospital and that they let me out. So, she sent me straight into maternity in UCHG and from there then they diagnosed me with cervical cancer. I didn’t ask what stage or anything because I was too frightened, to be honest. And I got such a shock obviously and you know so later I learned that it was quite advanced.

Then last year, just ‘21 that I was diagnosed with secondaries, two tumours, one in my groin and one in my hip area, and that’s why I’ve been having treatment for the last couple of months. When I came out first time round, because even in the hospital, they tell you that the palliative care team look after your pain relief, which I initially thought, you know, horrified me because when I heard the word palliative care team, I thought, oh my God, you know, am I going to die and they haven’t told me and straightaway you panic and think, you know, why do they call it that? But they’re pain specialists so when I came out, you don’t go back to the hospital anymore. You’re put in touch with the hospice and the palliative care team here look after your pain control and pain relief.

But I was very lucky here during Covid I had started doing the art therapy with Kathy, when I came into day care, and because I could drive and then it was COVID they still allowed me come in and have an hour a week of art therapy which was great for me because I live on my own. But it was my lifeline to be able to come in here.

My name is Katherine Hyland and I’m the art therapist at the Galway and Mayo hospice. Art therapy is a gentle yet powerful form of emotional support. It allows patients to express their emotions and their life experience. So each patient would use it very individually. Some patients would like to make artwork to leave to their loved ones. Others would like to process their life experience through art.

Arts means different things for different people. I mean, art therapy is where you kind of just come in and express yourself, I suppose really. Kathy is someone you can talk to. It’s nearly like a counselling session. I remember days coming in and just having the paints and dabbling. I remember days coming in and crying with Cathy just, you know, whatever might be going on for me. So art therapy is for anybody really, you don’t need any prior experience of art making. There’s no right or wrong way to engage in art therapy. It’s very personal to the individual how they use the space.

You know, whatever kind of painting you’re into, you can express themselves in some way through art. That’s what I found great about it.

It can be a great relief to patients to be able to express themselves creatively. It can go a little bit deeper than just words alone and can allow them to access emotions and feelings in a different way and gain a little bit of psychological distance from their experiences.

Kathy just has that lovely gentle nature about her and as the week’s went on, I just built up that bond with her and I felt very comfortable and I could come in and even when I come in, I’d say

wasn’t a great day this week or wasn’t a good week or I’m waiting on a scan. But I felt comfortable with her that I could share my life.

So the essence of art therapy really is creative, meaningful engagement and it’s a form of emotional support and psychological support. Sometimes I describe it as like counselling but using creativity along with words. So it’s about getting something from the inside out and there can be a great sense of relief from that. So I have had patients say that they feel like they’re not in hospice when they are in the art room so I try to make the room as inviting as possible.

And I think then the good thing is to know that the hospice is here. If you do feel low or need them again, you know you can come in, you know they’re here for you. I think that’s what’s very important as well.

But I think for people to see the work that they do here is incredible.

A cancer journey is not a journey you wish on anybody. It’s not a road I ever thought I’d have to walk but I do, and I suppose what helps is all the people you meet along the way. I have to say the hospice here, they give you great hope. It helps take some of that fear away. You know, and for anybody starting on a journey is to know that, to avail of the help that is out there, to reach out to the hospice and get to know what they can do for you. That’s what I would advise people to do- to not be on your own with it.