Princess Margaret Cancer Centre nurse offering comfort to patients with hand-painted rocks

05/12/2017  |  Faces of The Princess Margaret |  Posted by: PMCF

(Elena Gomez holds up her brightly-coloured rocks. Photo courtesy UHN)

Elena Gomez has found a unique way to brighten the day of cancer patients.

She began painting brightly-coloured rocks earlier this year as a creative outlet but after giving one out to a patient, the oncology nurse at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre realized there was another purpose for her art. 

"In the back of my mind, I always thought it would be neat to give them to patients but I wasn't sure how it would be perceived," Elena told UHN News

When she saw a young patient having a really bad day, she grabbed a rock out of her locker and offered it to her, saying: "If I'm sad, I use it to become centred. It helps me. Maybe it can help you."

Elena described it as a “transformative response” and said the girl’s sadness turned to happiness. 

She now gives out her rocks, which she gathers from several Lake Ontario beaches, to several more patients.
As well as mini mandala designs, Elena also paints messages of hope and inspiration on the rocks. 

(Mini mandalas and messages of hope on Elena's rocks. Photo courtesy UHN)

She has also teamed up with The Princess Margaret Art Therapy Intern Christina Lee to show her nursing colleagues how to do their own rock painting. 

Elena, who works on 17A, a Medical and Radiation Oncology Unit at The Princess Margaret, is now painting more than 50 rocks for the holidays for other inpatient units and the Palliative Care Inpatient Unit in the Cancer Centre. 

She says she’s been overwhelmed by the response she’s received from her rocks both from staff and patients. 

"The last time I gave a rock, I almost cried because the patient cried," Elena said. "It meant a lot to her and she felt a little better and, as a nurse, it felt good to be able to make a patient feel better.

"When they find it meaningful, it makes it more meaningful to me."

To read the full story on Elena visit UHN News