It Took Breast Cancer for Me to get Tattoos

By Kristen Knott

Written May 23, 2015

She begins. I scrunch my eyes and hold my breath, fighting through the first couple of minutes, adjusting to the sensation of the needle piercing my skin. Gradually, I start to let my body relax. The pain is not as intense as I thought it would be. It helps that Kyla moves from my left boob to the right, instead of remaining in one spot, which keeps my mind distracted and spreads the discomfort. I flinch as she injects into a tender area right near my left scar. I close my eyes and concentrate on breathing in order to get through it. She asks me if the pain is too intense. I tell her it hurts a lot but I’m ok.

“Please continue,” I say. So she does.

“There! Go take a look.” Kyla Gutsche instructs. She is the Pied Piper of cosmetic tattooing. We are in her office, which is housed in a traditional medical building in the heart of Peterborough of all places. I sought Kyla’s services booking a year and a half ago to make sure I was in her queue. After my mastectomies I yearned to see the same familiar sight, the one [...] continue the story

Me, Myself, and My Depression

When I began putting together this narrative of my experiences, I had no idea where to start. I was feeling a little lost. Normally I’m very on top of things, I do my readings two weeks ahead of schedule and like to get assignments done a week before they’re due. But for some reason, I found myself procrastinating about working on this. I think it had something to do with the fact that finding words to form a coherent and cohesive discussion about my experiences with mental illness was extremely intimidating and scary. In the beginning This is me when I’m 3 on my first day of school. Apparently I was NOT happy to be going. Although I didn’t start feeling the symptoms until later in my teens, anxiety is something I’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember. My parents put me in a bunch of different sports when I was a child and I can remember becoming extremely anxious before a swimming lesson or a softball game, the week leading up to it filled with dread. Reading through report cards from Grade 2, I read comments from my French teacher about how I cried a lot, especially [...] continue the story

Toodaloo Motha…

Ken Jeong of “The Hangover” fame, shares this intimate perspective of his wife’s cancer and its impact on him as caregiver.

This is part of a series of films for the upcoming WETA and Ken Burns Cancer project. cancerfilms.org/story-wall/

Patient Voice

Patient Voice was made possible by a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, created in collaboration with the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. We worked with an amazing group of young people who created images which they narrated for a video to describe their own experiences – My Diagnosis, The World of Medicine (the good and the bad) and What Keeps Me Going.

Most recently, with grants from both the Fred J. Epstein Foundation and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, we are continuing our “Patient Voice” work, engaging people in sharing their experiences to educate those working in the world of medicine.

Sjogren’s Makes Life More Complicated

After 20 years with Rheumatoid Arthritis I developed Sjogrens Syndrome.  It is another autoimmune disease most recognizably showing itself as very dry eyes and mouth. It would have been called Secondary Sjogren’s in the past because it developed with another autoimmune disease, but the classification criteria has changed recently.

Dryness is a problem The dryness affects all areas of the body but is far more noticeable and annoying in the eyes and mouth. I use pilocarpine (salagen) in pill form for my dry mouth. It is a prescription drug. Without it my voice starts to diminish and I cough and choke a lot. It is possible to have a compounding pharmacy make up a mouthwash using pilocarpine but it has a very bitter taste.  I also use Biotene Oral Balance at night.

Since the lack of saliva makes your teeth more susceptible to decay it is very important to take care of your teeth well.  I read that using a night guard when you sleep helps with the saliva production because it is a “foreign body” in your mouth, so I got one. I also clench my teeth and get headaches and this helps with dryness and clenching.  You can put a re-mineralizing agent like [...] continue the story

Compassion for Voices: a tale of courage and hope

Historically, the primary aim of psychosis treatment has been to reduce or eliminate psychotic experiences (eg with antipsychotic drugs), which has shaped our broader cultural views of these phenomena as being the undesirable symptoms of a disordered brain. This results in stigmatisation of people with such experiences, which is not only isolating and shaming for them, but can also drive them into an internal battle with their experiences, eg attempting to fight, control or suppress them.

This 5-minute film presents an alternative way of relating to experiences; this goes against the tide of traditional approaches and culturally engrained attitudes. Essentially, it charts the therapeutic progression of a young man, Stuart, from being tormented by his voices, through establishing safeness, to developing the qualities needed to engage with them through compassionate dialogue. For people with psychosis, this may have therapeutic value as a template or metaphor for their own recovery journey.

Compassion for Voices is a Cultural Institute at King’s project in collaboration with the Department of Psychology and animator, Kate Anderson.

Using Photography to Give a Voice to Mental Illness

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published as a Patient Experience Case Study on the Beryl Institute website.

“Case Studies provide real stories of current efforts, including programs being initiated, practices being implemented, and outcomes being targeted and/or achieved. Case studies are presented as both an opportunity for learning from others as well as a spark for further ideas on how we work to improve the patient experience.”

What was the challenge, opportunity or issue faced?

Working with an acute mental health inpatient population, we saw many reasons to introduce photoVOICE here at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. It is powerful in the fight against the stigma that surrounds mental illness, it is empowering to our patients by giving them a voice and it educates everyone it touches from the patient to the policy maker. A photograph goes beyond what words can explain, by sharing the challenges that our patients captured on camera, we were as staff, family and a community more moved to help bring about change! What did you do to address it?

We gave cameras to our inpatients in the Specialized Mental Health Centre and asked them to teach us through pictures and narratives just what recovery from mental illness looks [...] continue the story

Refocusing The Lens – Untitled 2

PHOTOVOICE is an engagement and empowerment strategy that uses photography as a tool for social change. It gives any group the opportunity to record, reflect on, and critique personal and community issues in a creative way.

The aim of this project is to motivate participants to be actively involved in decisions that affect their own lives, while decreasing stigma and broadening understanding of their personal struggles. The resulting exhibit, REFOCUSING THE LENS, features the work of five participants who have documented their personal experiences with mental health, eager to represent them to the outside world. Untitled 2, By Gabriel

Artist’s Statement

We all leave an imprint, whether positive or negative. You never know what you leave behind until the past catches up to you. Select a thumbnail to see a photo and its story.

Refocusing The Lens – Untitled 1

PHOTOVOICE is an engagement and empowerment strategy that uses photography as a tool for social change. It gives any group the opportunity to record, reflect on, and critique personal and community issues in a creative way.

The aim of this project is to motivate participants to be actively involved in decisions that affect their own lives, while decreasing stigma and broadening understanding of their personal struggles. The resulting exhibit, REFOCUSING THE LENS, features the work of five participants who have documented their personal experiences with mental health, eager to represent them to the outside world. Untitled 1, By Gabriel

Artist’s Statement

Sometimes my mind can imprison me. It’s up to me to find the best way out. Select a thumbnail to see a photo and its story.

Refocusing The Lens – Limits

PHOTOVOICE is an engagement and empowerment strategy that uses photography as a tool for social change. It gives any group the opportunity to record, reflect on, and critique personal and community issues in a creative way.

The aim of this project is to motivate participants to be actively involved in decisions that affect their own lives, while decreasing stigma and broadening understanding of their personal struggles. The resulting exhibit, REFOCUSING THE LENS, features the work of five participants who have documented their personal experiences with mental health, eager to represent them to the outside world. Limits, By DK

Artist’s Statement

Having endured so much for so long you get to the point when you’ve taken absolutely all you can bear. At that point it becomes evident that you do not have the tools you need to move into wellness from where you are – you have no choice but to do what you desperately needed to do from the beginning: reach out. Having been so closed off for so long, I have now learned that for the rest of my life there will always people who are willing to, and capable of, helping me. Believing this, despite some strong opposing thoughts arising within [...] continue the story