July 14-24: Special masks on display

June 1, 2011

From July 14-24, The Grandview Library Atrium will feature a special exhibition of radiation masks—formerly worn by head and neck cancer patients—that have been transformed into works of art by 26 professional visual artists (primarily from Central Ohio) as part of Courage Unmasked for Joan’s Fund*.

Beginning in March 2011, 30 masks will be exhibited in venues throughout Columbus, Ohio, to bring awareness to head and neck cancers (HNC) and the dedicated team at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James)**.

The masks will be auctioned at a gala event at the Franklin Park Conservatory on October 21, 2011.

Get the exhibition schedule, donate, purchase gala tickets and more atwww.joansfoundation.org—plus, see photos of these amazing masks.

And don’t forget to visit the Grandview Library July 14-25 to see these works of art in person!

This special Library exhibition is coordinated with Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Arts Council.

Courage Unmasked for Joan’s Fund benefits Joan’s Fund and OSUCCC-James and is sponsored by The Columbus Dispatch, WBNS-10TV, and Capital Style. 

* The Joan Levy Bisesi Foundation for Head and Neck Oncology Research (Joan’s Foundation) is the fundraising arm of Joan’s Fund, and is dedicated solely to head and neck oncology.

OSUCCC-James (The James Cancer Hospital”, “The James”) is the Midwest’s first and Ohio’s only fully dedicated cancer hospital and research institute, one of the nation’s premier cancer centers for the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. 

For more information about this exhibition & campaign, please contact:
Melinda Fenholt Cogley
Executive Director, Joan’s Foundation
Courage Unmasked for Joan’s Fund Campaign Chair
MelindaCogley@JoansFoundation.org614.806.0536 (cell)
Below is a history of this exhibition, including personal stories and HNC facts:

Courage Unmasked
In September 2009, the American University Museum at the Katzen Art Center in Washington, DC, hosted a unique fundraiser called Courage Unmasked. More than 100 artists from all over the United States transformed radiation masks—formerly worn by HNC patients to position and immobilize their heads during treatment—into works of fine art.

It was during one such treatment session that this idea first came to Cookie Kerxton, a patient, an artist, and the founder of Courage Unmasked. Cookie wanted to find a way to ease the financial burden for other HNC patients who could not afford this expensive and grueling, but necessary, radiation. Cookie’s colleagues and doctors quickly endorsed the idea of auctioning the artworks at a gala event to raise funds. Giving their time and talent, the artists created magnificent masterpieces unlike any other visual art ever seen. Courage Unmasked, an artistic celebration for the fight against HNC, was launched.

Courage Unmasked for Joan’s Fund
When members of the Joan’s Foundation Board first heard of Courage Unmasked, they contacted its founder, Cookie Kerxton, to learn more about her campaign. The idea was presented at the December 2009 meeting, and the board enthusiastically agreed to duplicate her campaign. With Cookie’s permission, Joan’s Foundation launched Courage Unmasked for Joan’s Fund, the second Courage Unmasked campaign.

The Campaign
In 2010, the Courage Unmasked for Joan’s Fund Campaign Committee selected 26 professional visual artists, primarily from central Ohio and from a variety of mediums, to turn radiation masks into works of fine art. Artists worked in close collaboration with survivors whose stories were their inspiration, resulting in a unique and incredible exhibit of 30 transformed masks.

Joan’s Story
Joan Levy Bisesi, beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend, was always positive and courageous, even throughout a painful battle against cancer.

In 1996, at age 29, Joan developed canker sore-like tumors in her mouth and was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is rare for someone in her twenties without normal risk factors. But while rare, unfortunately Joan’s situation is not unique. Statistics document an increasing incidence of squamous cell carcinoma among young people.
Joan immediately underwent treatment for her cancer.
In the fall of 2000, just before celebrating five cancer-free years, Joan found her cancer had returned. As she was finishing radiation treatments after a second surgery, she learned she was pregnant. Although worried about her physical ability to handle the pregnancy and birth, she was ecstatic!
Joan’s pregnancy was difficult and she struggled to stay healthy. As she planned for her baby’s arrival in November 2001, she learned her cancer had returned a third time. The baby was delivered in September, several weeks early, to give Joan the ability to undergo another surgery but, sadly, it was too late. The cancer had become inoperable.
Joan died on November 23, 2001, when her beautiful daughter, Mira Sophia, was only 10 weeks old.
Joan’s Fund
Shortly before she passed away, Joan, and her husband, Phil, created Joan’s Fund, an endowment fund for research at “The James”. Joan sent an email to her friends stating, “Phil and I have decided not to be bashful in asking for your support to cure cancer. I love flowers and cards, but I would rather be cured and be able to see the flowers at Mira’s wedding than to see them now!”
To date, more than $700,000 has been raised for Joan’s Fund to support research at the “The James” that focuses on finding a cure for all types of head and neck cancer (HNC).
Facts about Head and Neck Cancer
  • HNC includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, thyroid, and lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Symptoms of HNC include a canker-like sore in the mouth, trouble swallowing, hoarseness, a sore throat, ear pain, swollen glands, sinus problems, or a lump in the neck.  HNCs are often discovered after repeated treatments fail to treat persistent symptoms.
  • Every year more than half-a-million people throughout the world are diagnosed with HNC.  HNC is the sixth most common form of cancer in the US, and every day 30 Americans die from these cancers.
  • Treatment often involves surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these.  In addition to altering physical appearance, HNC treatments often cause patients long-term difficulties with eating, swallowing, and speaking.
  • HNC is increasing, especially in people younger than 40, even when lacking the traditional risk factors of tobacco and alcohol use.
  • Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) have been linked to some forms of HNC in both males and females, and can be transmitted orally.
  • While a vaccine is available to young females to prevent HPV-related cervical cancer, further research is needed to determine if a vaccine could prevent HPV-related HNCs in young males and females.