Artist Cookie Kerxton survived head and neck cancer, now through her non-profit organization she is helping cancer patients in Delaware.
Many people aren’t familiar with head and neck cancer. Cookie Kerxton wasn’t when she was diagnosed with it.
She didn’t know she would have to wear a mask while being strapped down to a table, so the radiation could properly target the cancer. She also didn’t know that most people with head and neck cancer need dental prosthesis, suffer from terrible mouth sores or need to be fed through their stomachs.
“I was told it was a ‘good’ kind of cancer. I didn’t realize how bad it can be,” Kerxton said.
During her treatments Kerxton wondered what would become of her mask. Some people, she was told, just leave them, others take them home and destroy them.
She came up with a better idea. What if she could get her artist friends to use the masks to create art, auction off the masks and then give the proceeds to cancer patients in need of financial help? That is exactly what she did – and ‘Courage Unmasked’ was born.
Kerxton got a list of artists together and sent out a letter informing them of her intentions. “I was just amazed at the response I got, I had to really turn people away,” Kerxton said.
There are a lot of expenses associated with head and neck cancer treatments that are not covered by some medical insurance. The money raised from the auction of the masks at the end of the ‘Courage Unmasked’ exhibit on display now at the Rehoboth Art League will go to help patients in Sussex County and at Beebe Medical Center’s Tunnell Cancer Center.
“The money is raised here so that is where the money will be kept,” Kerxton said.
Kerxton says she was lucky, “I didn’t need dental prosthesis. I didn’t need to be fed through my stomach. I didn’t have awful mouth sores.”
As you look around at the masks on display at the Rehoboth Art League, it is amazing the difference in each one. Every artist started with the same canvas, a plain white plastic mask. Each took that item and infused it with individual creativity and passion – creating art that will ultimately be auctioned off to help others.
“I just am amazed at what the artists have done with these masks,” Kerxton said.
Kerxton created the nonprofits, 911 for Head and Neck Cancer (9114hnc) and Courage Unmasked, to help spread the word about head and neck cancer and as a way for patients to get help. The websites are resources where patients can download forms required to get help from the fund and where people can go to donate money to help patients in need.
Kerxton hopes to take the program nationwide as soon as she can find the support to do so. For now she does what she can for others.
“I am passionate about it because I feel so lucky that I am ok. It makes me feel good, and I’ve helped a lot of people” Kerxton says.
The exhibit at the Rehoboth Art league runs through September 19th when the masks will be auctioned off at a special ticketed event. You can get more information on the exhibit here, and if you would like to help you can get information about the Courage Unmasked project at 9114hnc.org