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Photovoice: Through the eyes of teens with cancer
9 minute read

Photovoice: Through the eyes of teens with cancer


Photovoice is a therapeutic photography program focused on creating a supportive peer-focused environment aimed at bringing a voice to teens with varying cancer diagnoses.

Photovoice is a therapeutic photography program focused on creating a supportive peer-focused environment aimed at bringing a voice to teens with varying cancer diagnoses.

Watch the video below to hear the personal cancer stories and see the photographs shared by SickKids patients.

The Photovoice program is supported by the Garron Family Cancer Centre.


Veruca: Photo voice is a chance to, well, really give your photos a voice.

[Text on screen: Photovoice – Through the Eyes of Teens with Cancer]

[Music and camera lens shutters]

Bella: A captured image can mean a whole lot more than just one thing

Thea: Well it takes something that you can't really say in words so you can show to other people how you felt using a photo.

Brooke: In pictures you can really see what's happening.

Owen: The photography helped me express my feelings.

Sarah: Why they took that photo kind of like showcases their story in a way.

Noor: Cancer is a really tough experience to go through and sometimes you can't explain it through words.


Maryam: So we got to pick these themes and take photos of whatever we thought fit into that theme, or maybe didn't fit into that theme, but we thought related to it, and then present them to the group and just talk. It was a really nice moment just to discuss other parts of what we're going through.


Noor: Me and my mom would go on car rides together after I do chemotherapy. It kind of relaxes me and reminds me that I can still live a normal life even though I’m doing chemotherapy and I can still enjoy little things.

Sarah: I think the one that resonated with me the most is Strength and Weaknesses. Everybody like in their cancer journey had strengths and weaknesses. That photo [Referencing a photo of herself lying in bed with a face mask on] I felt the weakest, but everybody around me thought that I was the strongest. We all have this mask that we need to put on especially in front of our family. I don't want to show my family what I’m going through because they're already upset so it's better that I put this mask on and kind of like deal with it my own way or like cope with it in my own way.

Thea: I mean some pictures have a story behind it. [Referencing a photo of herself, without hair, lying in bed without a wig on] Like I didn't get out of bed that day and normally I put on makeup or my wig and that day I just couldn't do it and I felt like this out of body experience and I just didn't recognize me at all. I was like small and sick you know. A couple months later when I had hair and I was more me and I realized like the parallels of that as I was getting up and I’m like this is perfect so I took a picture. [Referencing a photo of herself with short hair, lying in bed smiling] Life after cancer is like living with the knowledge of knowing how a body can decay so that's how I felt in the first picture and then the second one I sort of came out from that.

Veruca: One of the themes that really resonated with me was Personality. You always know your personality, you know who you are. It's the one thing that no one can take from you. That something as crazy as cancer couldn't take from you. I enjoy listening to music and that helped me through treatment because it was just like a way to like escape. [Referencing a photo of a pair of earphones, held up infront of a hospital room curtain] You don't always have to pay attention to what's going on around you, whether you're in a hospital setting or not. Well I’m definitely grateful for the group. When I look back at some of the photos that I’ve taken I can see how far I’ve come.

Bella: You don't just learn about people's cancer diagnosis or the stuff that they've gone through, you understand like a part of their personality. We all had a different point of view, but we all went through the same thing. We lost our hair, we went through chemotherapy, we were constantly being poked. Well it represents coping to me because for me a big struggle through my whole cancer diagnosis was losing my hair. Well I feel like if you feel good and you feel confident in yourself it's a lot easier and when you feel good you look good and I feel like that just feeling comfortable myself with my wig on was really me coping.

Owen: The themes helped us narrow down what we wanted to do. "A New Normal" that that helped us explain of what we were and what we’re becoming, or what we're going to be. I was out late one night, I think it was around like midnight or whatever with my friends and we were out doing stupid stuff. I thought I was invincible. I just got into grade nine, I was sent down here and I had a highly aggressive stage four glioblastoma. My first stage of chemo didn't work but my second battle is working really well.

I wasn't such a nice person before being in the hospital. I was sad, I was depressed. And right now the new normal is I want to help as many people as I can. I talk to everybody, I’m absolutely radiant person, I love life. I don't care that I’m on a chemo drug or anything. I look past that. You have to, to survive. And it's a new normal.

Maryam: So the theme of strength and weaknesses resonated for me specifically, in that throughout what you go through, a cancer journey treatment and all the parts of it, I feel like a lot of people when they picture it can only think of the sadness or the weaknesses in a way. But there are a lot of strengths. And you come out of it and you gain a lot. You gain strength and you gain a new look on life. I think that I’m strong because of what I’ve gone through. So that photo [Referencing a photo of various colourful polaroid images and flowers on a table] I used polaroids of a trip I took with classmates to Nepal. It was a time in my life when I felt physically strong, out of treatment and in those photos or snapshots with me and my friends, and these beautiful moments on this trip, and it's moments that give me strength and motivation because these beautiful moments in life really exist. And it gave me strength to think back like, this can happen again. That this moment of beauty and this happiness that I experienced during that trip, it can happen again.

Brooke: Well I think how you make a photo special is if it really means something to you. That picture [Referencing a photo of herself sitting on a bench, reading by the water] describes coping because whenever i wanted to cope or something to do just get my mind off cancer, I would read my bible and that would help me cope and just sit by the lake and it was just a good coping strategy for me. Sharing this photo was empowering because I got to see how people react and that photos really do explain who you are as a person. I usually don't like opening up, especially not about personal things such as my cancer journey, so when I was doing Photovoice it really gave me the opportunity to share my experience. And it's just good to get it off your chest because it's a part of you and you can't leave it behind.

Noor: Cancer shouldn't be kept a secret it's something to show what I’ve done what I’m going through.

Thea: It made me feel like I could finally get things off my chest to a group of people who understood.

Veruca: Having that environment where we could interact and share pieces of our lives through photos really helped me feel like I wasn't alone in what I was going through.

Bella: After all this like whole experience I think I definitely look at photos a different way.

Owen: When I think of photography I think of myself as a whole and everything that's happened to me.

Maryam: It’s uplifting to think about Photovoice. It's a support group tied up with the ability to express your creativity.

Sarah: It's pretty healing.

[Music and camera lens shutters]

[Text on screen: Photovoice – Through the Eyes of Teens with Cancer]

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