Nurse creates art to help childhood cancer patients through treatment

It takes more than Band-Aids with cartoon characters to put children receiving cancer treatment at ease, but Leo Flores knows how. A post-anesthesia care unit nurse at MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center, he makes a point of getting to know his pediatric patients, who may undergo a series of 30 treatments in six weeks.  It doesn’t take too many visits for the self-taught artist to figure out what to paint for them over the course of their treatment: a favorite toy, an animal they’re interested in or maybe a character from a story. “The kids actually start looking forward to treatment because they get to see how their painting has progressed,” he says. So far, he’s created more than 50 paintings for pediatric patients undergoing proton therapy. Connecting with young proton therapy patients through art Flores honed his painting skills while raising his now 23-year-old daughter. “She kept me busy over the years painting murals on her bedroom walls and helping with art and science projects for school,” he says. While painting was just a hobby, he soon found a way to incorporate it into his nursing duties. A few years ago, he began designing colorful banners to celebrate pediatric patients’ graduation from treatment. The signs were so popular among patients that Flores soon realized he could use art as a way to connect with each patient. “It’s a way to gain our youngest patients’ trust and give them a little distraction during their treatment,” says Flores, who has cared for patients as young as 6 months old. Since patients must stay very still during proton therapy, sedation is...