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For the first time, findings from an Ulster University research study focused on cancer and mental health has been transformed into vibrant street art and was unveiled this week on the Strand Road, Derry~Londonderry city centre on Thursday, 30 November.

Located on one of the city’s busiest streets at Quayside Shopping Centre, the community art piece is a collaborative project between Ulster University and Hive Cancer Support, formerly known as the Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group, which explores the mental health impact of cancer surgery.

Designed by local street artist, Peaball Graffiti Collective, the mural ‘We Carry On’ brings an eye-catching splash of colour to an emotive message from those who bravely shared their personal cancer journeys as part of the research study.

Leading the research, Dr Claire McCauley, Lecturer with the School of Nursing and Paramedic Science and Lead Researcher conducted interviews with cancer patients to hear in their own words their cancer experience and the impact surgery has had on them throughout their journey.

Claire said: “It is wonderful to see our research findings visually presented in such an engaging and creative way. By placing the mural in a prominent location, we hope it stops passers-by in their tracks, even for a few moments. It may provide different things, for different people, helping some to find solace that they’re not alone, or help others gain a deeper understanding of the mental health impact associated with cancer.

“The collaborative approach between the participants, Hive Cancer Support project team and Ulster University has underlined the importance of research informed by local people and their experiences.

“We have been inspired by the bravery of the HIVE members. Their participation has enabled a deeper understanding of the long-term impacts of cancer surgery and treatment on mental health. Study findings highlight that mental and emotional wellbeing, potentially overlooked, now need to be recognised, prioritised and supported alongside physical recovery.

“This ground-breaking research and the lived experience the participants shared with us will be absolutely critical in starting necessary conversations to enable holistic and person centred healthcare delivery”.

Maureen Collins, Project Manager of Hive Cancer Support said: “We are delighted to see this mural come to fruition.“Taking part in this research project was a hugely emotional experience for our members who spoke in depth about their cancer surgery and it’s lasting impact.

“Some of them had to confront really difficult feelings that they thought were gone and buried and I have so much admiration and respect for them for being willing to do that.

“In recognition of this we brought the people who took part in the study together and presented the mural to them first before this evening’s launch.

“This mural, at the heart of our city, is a tribute to all cancer thrivers and reminds people Hive Cancer Support is here to help you carry on- whatever that looks like for you.”

Donal O’Doherty of Peaball street art collective interpreted the findings of the Ulster University research study guided by Hive Cancer Support.

Donal said: “We here at Peaball would like to thank Hive Cancer Support, Ulster University and all the participants who took part in the research for inviting us to be part of this amazing project.“

We’d also like to thank Quayside Shopping Centre for giving us permission to use the building for the mural. With sustainability in mind, this mural was created using a unique paint, GrafClean by Graphenstone which reacts with sunlight to reduce air pollution.

“Street art can have the power to engage with its audience in a different way and we hope this finished piece can play a part in raising awareness of the impact cancer can have on people’s mental wellbeing.”

The singular sunflower looks at each individual journey and the focus and determination to look to the light in dark times. The vase illustrates the Japanese art of Kintsugi- repairing pottery with gold making it stronger and more beautiful than before. The healing golden seams become part of the beauty and history of the object, to be appreciated rather than disguised.

The mural includes a QR code that will allow the public to scan and access Hive Cancer Support resources and services to create a more inclusive and informed community around the important issue of cancer and mental health.

The project was made possible through funding from the Ideas Fund, a grants programme ran by the British Science Association and funded by Wellcome, which enables the UK public to develop and try out ideas that address problems related to mental wellbeing by working with researchers.

For more information visit Hive Support Cancer