I've been working the CARE(Cancer, Awareness, Resources and Education) program at San Francisco General Hospital for the past 6 years. For the last 3 years, I've been given an annual grant to photograph this beautifully diverse and vulnerable cancer community. The inception of, A Life Project, developed while spending time listening to and photographing weekly group sessions. Stories of pain and triumph truly illustrated the power in community, education and love. The portraits are printed on fine art canvas and line the walls of the SFGH Oncology clinic. Our intention and hope for this, now permanent installation, is to change the dynamic of the clinical space. Along with the portraits, CARE members share their cancer diagnosis, survivorship story and reveal how this program has impacted not only their care but life.
"The walls at the north end of the Ward 86 clinic, adorned with these beautifully photographed portraits accompanied by multilingual quotes, has served to re-frame the hospital as a place that not only treats illness and injury, but also promotes community building, supports innovative approaches to patient-centered communication, and enhances patients’ quality of life. The exhibit implicitly serves to redefine health as not merely the absence of disease, but as the integration of physical, spiritual, and emotional well being.
Finally, the exhibit serves to help break the stigma of a cancer diagnosis. Many of San Francisco General Hospital’s cancer patients retreat into a deadly isolation, overwhelmed and confused by a frightening disease whose treatment is often debilitating and extremely difficult to bear. Many of these patients keep their cancer diagnoses secret from friends and even family members, terrified of being shunned and rejected or somehow causing the people they love to suffer. Displaying the faces of San Francisco General Hospital’s cancer survivors serves to break this deadly silence and open up a vital dialogue about cancer and community."- Blue Walcer, CARE Program Director