She has faced gruelling treatment for brain cancer but through it all, Art Therapy has made an impact.
Jess Halkett knows all about the power of art. Her love affair with art began early in life through school, however, the healing impact of art has helped her navigate the cruellest of blows.
“I’ve always been a creative – a dabbler happy to try everything, but really enjoy lead sketching and drawing.”
Sadly, at just 26 years old and one week before Mother’s Day in May 2018, she was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (GBM) – an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer. She was alerted initially by an extremely severe headache and aversion to light, which saw her admitted straight to Flinders Medical Centre with the shocking cancer diagnosis confirmed the same day.
An inoperable brain tumour resulted in multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, ongoing seizures, loss of mobility and impaired vision.
Jess’s life has been turned completely upside down. With two young boys under 10, her partner Alex stopped his job as a FIFO worker at Roxby Downs to care for their young family. Jess’s grandmother Robyn, a retired nurse is now her full-time carer allowing Alex to continue looking after the boys at their home.
Jess’s previously active lifestyle included swimming, hiking, kayaking and various creative outlets such as drawing and sewing. Her love of reading was even taken away with constant blurred vision and persistent headaches.
Fortunately, a family farm on the Fleurieu Peninsula has provided much solace and comfort for Jess, Alex and their boys in the form of nature, birds and kangaroos.
Through Southern Adelaide Palliative Services based at Flinders Medical Centre, Jess was referred to the CCH Art Therapy service. This vital service, also supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Palliative Care, is available to hospice and community palliative care patients and their families.
Jess found her first Art Therapy session to be very emotional, exploring the mix of overwhelming feelings of fear, anger and sadness caused by her diagnosis of such an aggressive cancer.
“Art Therapy opened up feelings and things I’d lost, such as mobility to do all the things I love. These were all suddenly taken away from me without any potential to return,” said Jess.
“I’ve seen Luisa (Art Therapist) half a dozen times, with the sessions being a huge healing outlet. The process of Art Therapy has made such an impact on me and the boys and I want to raise awareness of the importance of this essential service.”
With a qualified Art Therapist, Art Therapy combines visual arts with knowledge of human development, psychology and mental health, and can assist in the healing process.
Patients and their family members also experience the process of perceiving, adjusting, and accepting reality of what lies ahead through Art Therapy.
It is with sadness, we advise Jess lost her battle with brain cancer late January, less than a week after her 30th birthday. Jess touched many hearts with her sassy style and creativity, and was a wonderful advocate for art therapy in palliative care. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.