KEVIN KOSTELNIK

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 3, 2002

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Shield cast paper, redwood, nails 36 x 24 x 4 inches 1994

Tom was 27 years old and working long hours at NJ Transit in Hoboken, New Jersey, when he first threw up blood in early June of 1994. Three days later, he was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma.

For me, not directly afflicted with something as horrible as cancer, but close to one who needlessly suffered with it, I used sculpture as a way of screaming at the top of my voice. I wanted Tom to know how much he means to me and that, even though I could not be there every day for him, he was in my thoughts constantly. Making these pieces was also a selfish act. It made me capable of putting into order something as uncontrollable as this disease, which made me feel a little better about the whole rotten situation.

This shield was for Tom's journey, to protect him from his enemy, cancer. The main form of the piece represented Tom's overall bony appearance. The coat of arms on the front of the shield depicted the inside of Tom's body (the circle) in which a great battle was raging: a war between man-made chemical weapons (the top form) and an ancient plodding killer (the bottom form). The next days Tom's counts shot up dramatically, and he started to feel better. I like to think that he used the Shield.

Tom finished his chemotherapy in December 1994. He has been tested regularly and has been cancer free ever since. He continues to work the same impossible hours he used to, yet seems to live with a renewed interest in life. I admire him greatly.

Mandrake walnut, poplar, bark 68 x 29 x 9 inches 1994