ECOYA shines a light on the power of art therapy

30 Nov 1999

Seven-year-old Chelsea was forever dancing and racing around the house with her three siblings. One day, out of nowhere, the Year One student became so sick she couldn’t even walk across the room.

Melinda, Chelsea’s mum, took her straight to their local hospital.

“I thought we’d get some antibiotics and go home,” she recalls.

Instead, on that day, their world got turned upside down. Melinda was told to pack their bags and head straight to Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick. The doctors immediately suspected leukaemia.

Shortly after, Chelsea was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. She needed life-saving treatment. Overnight, her busy, active life was turned upside down. She was now living in a hospital ward, missing her beloved dance lessons, and learning to cope with the side-effects of steroid treatment and chemotherapy.

Leukemia also triggered weakness and fatigue, and Chelsea had to use a wheelchair to get around.

“It was such an emotional time,” says Melinda. “You could see in her face she was very down.”

Sick kids like Chelsea need every chance to experience joy, creativity, and normal childhood activities in hospital. Thanks to donors like you, Chelsea could join in on sessions with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation Art Program. It was a time in her day she could forget treatment, have fun,and just be a kid.

Working with the Foundation’s ArtEx team, Chelsea painted and drew her way through cancer treatment. Drawing and painting lessons strengthened her weak joints and improved her finger mobility. Art took her far from the worries of treatment.  

“She’d do pictures inspired by Aboriginal art, sketch animals and learn to use water colours,” Melinda says.

Chelsea was feeling self-conscious as she’d lost her hair and gained weight due to the cancer medications. But this didn’t mean she had to miss out on art class. She was able to attend via Zoom from bed, turning her screen off for privacy.

“Some days she would be flat, and her art therapists would come bringing art supplies to encourage her,” Melinda says.

In total Chelsea was in hospital for three months. She needed rehabilitation to re-learn to walk and is now on maintenance therapy. But she is home and thrilled to be back at school and her dance lessons.

Recently, Melinda received a call to say an artwork by Chelsea had been chosen to feature on a special edition candle by luxury brand, ECOYA.  

“It was a painting she did of a garden with flowers and butterflies … at the time she was probably dreaming of getting outside again,” says Melinda. “Chelsea is so excited ECOYA chose her artwork!”

These days, Chelsea continues to find comfort in art.

“She's forever pulling bits and pieces out and sits there painting and sticking things together,” Melinda laughs. “We’ve had her favourite painting she did in hospital of a pelican turned into a blind in her bedroom.”

The special Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation’s limited edition ECOYA candle, which is available for purchase can be found on our website and selected David Jones stores across NSW. For Chelsea, it is a beautifully scented reminder of the joy, calm and achievement art brought after her cancer diagnosis.

“Art therapy was the one thing that kept Chelsea going,” says Melinda. “We are so grateful that ECOYA and kind people in our community want to support sick kids like Chelsea.”

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