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​​Living with Cancer

Dorset's New Cancer Unit

Dorset’s pioneering new cancer unit is under construction will deliver world class health care for our local communities. The project will develop cancer facilities for patients all across Dorset and bring radiotherapy services to Dorchester for the first time. The new facilities will be life-changing, particularly for people who have previously had to travel long distances for radiotherapy services.

The unit will serve people of all ages, who have been diagnosed with cancer as well as their families. Patients who use this service are likely to be distressed and for some people, they may be living with a terminal diagnosis. The unit will be home to two brand new linear accelerators (LINAC) - the device most commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer. It will be a multi-functional space offering life changing radiotherapy, consulting rooms and counselling rooms. The unit will also be used by support groups. 

The unit is being funded and developed jointly between Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the hospital charities and with a major legacy from the photographer Robert White, a local man who died from cancer in 2015.

Overall aims and objectives of the art programme:
Co-design: To creatively engage patients, staff and visitors in developing artwork in the unit
Community Engagement: To share the patient journey involved in cancer treatment with a wider community
Healing Environments: To enhance the healing environment and make it into calm, healing spaces where patients get better faster, and staff and visitors are less stressed and anxious.

We are delighted that the DCH Charity, the Lions Club of Dorchester & District and the Friends of DCH have all supported new artwork projects in the Cancer Unit which will open officially toward the end of the year. 

Chris Tipping​ Appointed as Lead Artist

These designs by artist Chris Tipping were created following his research into the local fossil collection at Dorchester Museum and flow from his original designs in the lino flooring throughout DCH, creating a sense of continuity with the rest of the building. The Ginkgo trees, fossils perched on window sills, stones and pebbles will give the windows a colour and warmth as the light comes through, hopefully providing distraction for patients and sense of a high quality and healing space to be in throughout the reception and consulting rooms with windows. They do of course also provide essential privacy, practically and psychologically. 

A Collaboration with Dorchester Camera Club 

Photo Credit: Tony Gill

We asked the members of Dorchester Camera Club to capturing fresh new images for light boxes in the cancer unit – a fantastic opportunity to display the artwork of talented local photograp​hers. 

Arts in Hospital commissioned 6 images for A1 lightboxes which will be in 3 consulting rooms and along one of the corridors. The breif called out for images of Dorset - and the shortlist includes landscape, gardens, wildlife or natural scenes.

Socially Engaged Artists Sharing the Patient Journey

In development is a new project working with the Living Tree and Purbeck Workshop cancer support groups and renowned socially-engaged artists Davina Drummond and Yara El-Sherbini who we hope will be working here as “artists in residence” in the Cancer Unit (after some fundraising by us!). They will be exploring the theme of the passing of time and the healing power of past times. 

Dorchester Writing Group with Cancer Patients, 2012 

Six people with recent experience of cancer (two men, four women) met with writer Rosie Jackson for two day sessions in Dorchester in October 2012. We shared some of our feelings and responses to the diagnosis and treatment; discussed what is helpful and not from medical staff, family and friends; talked about coping mechanisms and changes in lifestyle and outlook; wrote some poetry and prose which focused on the journey through cancer. Another participant who was unable to actually attend also sent in some writing. The feedback was very positive, acknowledging how valuable it is to share and compare personal stories. 
Our aim is to produce a small pamphlet distilling some of this material, but as we have applied for additional funding to extend this project, and are waiting to see if our application is successful, this is simply a brief interim report to give a flavour of what emerged. It is a mixture of writings by participants and a transcript of what they shared in the group, conveying a sense of the challenges faced on a journey with cancer.

Download the book here:


View the book online here:​

© Dorset County Hospital 2013

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