Body, Event, Medical Humanities, News, Self-portrait without Breasts

Reading at the Yawkey Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, 4th October 2012

The brand new Yawkey Center of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is impressive. The architects consulted with staff, visitors and patients to create an ‘environment designed from the ground up to foster healing and maximize patient safety and comfort’.

There is really wonderful art (350 pieces – some especially commissioned, some on loan from the Museum of Fine Art Boston), including a giant kinetic sculpture in the atrium lobby – if you stand underneath it and look up it’s as though all the golden leaves of a New England October day are falling on you. If you look harder you see that each leaf has a cutout design of a different creature.

There’s a beautiful Healing Garden too, with glass walls looking out across Boston. Orchids, bamboo and epiphytic plants are grown in soil-free pots to reduce the risk of infection. The garden is peaceful, colourful, meditative.

I felt honoured to present ‘Self-portrait without Breasts’ in the quiet Resource Center of this building, where a small group sat around a table with me as I read and showed Laura’s photographs. We had a wonderful discussion after the reading, thinking about questions of choice, identity, patient/doctor relationships, the emotions of illness, new ways of thinking about cancer. And so much more.

Thank you Sarah Singer for inviting me. Thank you to the attentive, sensitive and thoughtful audience. I am proud to have contributed in a small way to the programme of healing arts at the DFCI.

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