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'NHS hero' portraits help patient's recovery

A West Suffolk Hospital patient has found a unique way of aiding her recovery from breast cancer surgery: painting portraits of the “NHS heroes” that looked after her.

Chris Goddard, 68, from Thetford, painted the portraits of the doctors and nurses who looked after her at the Bury St Edmunds hospital as a way to say thank you for their care.

Chris was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine breast screening in October 2020 but her treatment was delayed after she tested positive for Covid-19. She had her second surgical appointment earlier this month.

Whilst attending hospital appointments she took photos of her carers with a view to trying her hand at portrait painting as part of her recuperation.

Chris has so far finished six portraits, with another seven planned, and is donating each of them as presents to the members of staff featured.

Chris said: “I am fairly new to painting and certainly don’t regard myself as ‘an artist’ – in fact a few months ago I could not have believed it possible that I would even attempt a portrait!

“But, having been diagnosed with breast cancer I decided that painting would be great practice and therapy for me. 

“I set myself a little project to paint the portraits of the health care professionals I encounter on ‘my journey’ – focusing on the multi-disciplinary breast care team at West Suffolk Hospital, for whom I have the greatest respect and gratitude. 

“Every single encounter that I have had at West Suffolk Hospital has been wonderful. I have been kept well informed throughout, everyone has been immensely kind, helpful, reassuring and professional – truly our NHS heroes.” 

“Painting gives me time to reflect on the work that each individual does, the long hours and trying to imagine how Covid-19 has impacted on their work. 

“Painting also gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach as a psychological therapist in the form of mindfulness, which happily reinforced how helpful it is.”

The staff portrayed by Chris have been delighted with their portraits, which she has presented to them with a personal letter detailing how they helped her.

Breast cancer nurse Ellie Gosbee said: “I was both surprised and delighted to receive the portrait from Mrs Goddard. 

“It is just so lovely that she has gone to the effort of painting them, and I am so grateful to be appreciated in this way. It has been such a difficult time for all of us and receiving this gift was a really lovely moment.  

“She has done so well capturing what it has been like working through this pandemic.  I will treasure this portrait as a reminder of what it has been like working through this momentous time.” 

Surgeon Balendra Kumar said: “It was a lovely surprise to receive such a thoughtful gift. I am dedicated to each and every one of my patients, so was not expecting a present.  

“I feel honoured that Mrs Goddard has taken the time and effort to show her appreciation in this way.”

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Nurse Ellie Gosbee with the portrait of her painted by grateful patient Chris Goddard

Nurse Ellie Gosbee with the portrait of her painted by grateful patient Chris Goddard