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Fundraiser for head and neck cancer patients slated for Oct. 16

Oct. 8, 2015, 3:32 PM

The second annual Courage Unmasked event to raise awareness about head and neck cancer will be held Friday, Oct. 16, 6 – 9 p.m., at the Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt.

This year’s “Masks and Music” event, which raises funds for head and neck cancer patients in treatment at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, will include a showcase of radiation masks that have been decorated by local artists. Each mask has been used previously by a patient during radiation treatment.

Prior to therapy, each head and neck cancer patient must be fitted for a personalized mask, a plastic mesh cover that is heated and pulled tightly over the patient’s face to capture the contours of the head and facial features. The fitting for the mold takes about 15 minutes, and then the mask is cured until it hardens. The mask is used during each radiation treatment to ensure that the radiation beam is accurately targeting the cancer while sparing healthy tissue.

Patients say the fitting process and the use of a mask during therapy can be confining and sometimes traumatic. Transforming the masks into artwork can be liberating and often symbolic for patients who may collaborate with the artists on the theme and design for each mask.

This year’s artists include Cindy and Aliyah Young, Teresa Gray, Diane Sesler, Sara Bickell and Jennifer Wilkins. There will also be a silent auction featuring work by several artists.

The “Masks and Music” cocktail reception will include music from Carol Ponder and Robert Kiefer.

Tickets are $35 and may be purchased at the door or online at

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