Support Through Augmented Reality (STAR) is a personal expression of my experience with cancer, conveyed through the illustrative narration of a character named Star. This multifarious character helps simulate various scenarios for children experiencing hospital-induced trauma as the story progresses. Incorporating augmented reality allows for an expanded experience beyond print. My hope is to provide a sense of comfort through playful activities for children while they cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences during treatment.
A week before the start of my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells within the body. Being told this meant my life needed to be put on hold. It also meant I would be isolated from the world because a single sneeze could be catastrophic. For anyone who has been admitted, even for a short period of time, you may know how limited you start to feel because you’re constantly hooked up in bed and told to rest. Over time, I was able to have visitors, but for the most part, I was glued to a bed my body was not familiar with, eating certain foods the doctor allowed, and the only form of exercise permitted was doing laps around a help desk.
Now in remission for six years, this experience made me realize that we often take our health and abilities for granted. My high school experience did not go the way I expected it to, but it helped me value all that I have. Cancerous news can stop a person’s life within a matter of seconds, leaving them with unanswered questions and concerns to express. As a teen, there are an abundance of priorities, expectations, and desires that come along with that age group, such as studying for tests, permit and driver’s license, making friends who will provide support and company during difficult periods, acquiring a first job, playing sports, college, relationships, the list goes on. Children unwittingly face a battle completely unknown to them. Imagine how scared and confused they must be having to fight something out of their control. When you hear the words “cancer treatment,” you may think of things like chemotherapy, radiation or even hair loss. While many cancer patients go through painful procedures that create uncomfortable and life-changing side effects, there are many new therapeutic methods that can be integrated to ease their time while admitted. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are increasingly entering the world of health care. For a child, it can be a therapeutic activity that provides valuable distraction that engages his or her imagination while reducing anxiety.
STAR is an assistive, augmented reality-integrated experience for pediatric cancer patients. It is a personal expression of my own cancer experience through the illustrative narration of a significant character by the name of Star. Star can take the form of many living and non-living things, simulating through various scenarios as it progresses on its way back to Earth. Incorporating AR allows for an expanded experience beyond print media. My hope is to provide a sense of comfort through playful activities for children while they cope with symptoms, stress, or traumatic experiences during treatment.