Hospital helps cancer patient realise art exhibition dream

A Professor of Art who has had multiple advanced head and neck cancers is realising his dream to hold an art exhibition which aims to help other cancer patients, with the support of Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH).

New Brighton resident, John Hyatt, is a Professor of Contemporary Art at LJMU’s Liverpool School of Art and Design.

John has had a long journey with cancer involving radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, and being the first on a new experimental vaccine trial. Making art has always been a part of his journey.

Following his surgery in October 2022, he began painting a watercolour every day, as a way of coping with the complex and difficult emotions surrounding his struggle.

John, whose second cancer was diagnosed at the Trust in 2021, said, “I want to share my art with the public to raise awareness of the symptoms of head and neck cancer and to help other cancer sufferers consider ways to process their emotions and become more involved in their own healthcare, helping them achieve the best outcome.”

The art exhibition launched on John’s birthday, 17 October and will run until 17 November 2023. Visitors, patients and staff at the hospital will be able to view a selection of John’s extensive collection of artworks at the exhibition which is set up in a previous shop space by the main entrance at Arrowe Park Hospital.

WUTH is very keen to raise awareness of head and neck cancer symptoms, as the Wirral has one of the highest rates of this type of cancer in the UK. As a Trust, known for its compassionate and caring attitude towards patients, WUTH was quick to offer support to make John’s art exhibition happen at Arrowe Park Hospital.

John Hyatt (left), Prof Simon Rogers (right) with John’s post-surgery self-portrait called ‘The Stoic’

Dr Nikki Stevenson, Medical Director and Deputy CEO for Wirral Hospitals, opening the exhibition at Arrowe Park said, “We are really pleased to make John’s dream of exhibiting his art in a healthcare setting come true and to support him raising awareness of head and neck cancer.”

During his cancer diagnosis and treatment, John became better acquainted with his treating surgeon at WUTH, Professor Simon Rogers, Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon with a special interest in oncology.

Simon was so deeply impressed by John’s art and positivity that he asked WUTH to support John in realising his wish for the art to be shared widely with the community to raise awareness of head and neck cancer.

Simon said, “John is an amazingly talented artist, so I knew that holding an exhibition of his work could be a fantastic way to raise awareness. We want anyone experiencing symptoms to contact their GP or dentist as soon as possible as early diagnosis and treatment of cancer makes a massive difference to a patient’s health outcomes.

“John’s paintings and sculptures are absolutely incredible, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to reflect on how art can help patients through their cancer experience.”

The main symptoms of head and neck cancer to look out for are one or more persistent ulcers in the mouth, a lump in the neck, a sore throat for more than a few weeks especially with an earache, and a change in voice.

John is keen to underline the need to act quickly if you suspect something might be wrong. He said, “I had what I thought was an ulcer under my tongue. It stopped me enjoying my Christmas dinner during lockdown in 2020, so I went and got it checked out, via my GP, with a biopsy at Arrowe Park Hospital.

“It was cancer. Luckily, we had caught it before it had chance to grow too large, and WUTH acted with speed to get it removed. If I hadn’t gone as soon as I possibly could, it may have been too late.”

Lead image: Dr Nikki Stevenson (left), Prof Simon Rogers (centre), John Hyatt (right) with some of the watercolours at the exhibition

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news