How it all began ...


Quite by accident actually… I was not looking for a project and had never even seen a chemotherapy room. It all began with a simple philanthropic gesture when I offered to donate a botanical painting to the dreary chemotherapy room in Dr. Hufford’s San Francisco medical office.

Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo. A Story. A Tool Box, outlines the 20 projects I have completed, explains how they came about, and what it took to get them to completion. It also provides the tools necessary for you to create your own “room that rocks” not limited to chemo rooms. 

This book is an invitation to all people in all communities, to utilize the mechanics of Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo and transform sad and drab spaces into healing, hopeful, and lovely environments.

Taken from the book


Promise Me, How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer 

by Nancy G. Brinker, Founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

 “Somebody needs to make this place a little more up beat. It’s unbearably boring and sad, and that’s the last thing we need right now.” Suzy frowned at the framed dollar store art. “There should be classical music and something beautiful and stimulating on the walls. Something to remind us how wonderful the world is outside of all of this… It’s bad enough that we have to come here. Maybe if it were a little more inviting, it would make people feel positive and hopeful. When I get better, I’m going to make some changes around here. We’ll do it together.” 

From Dr. Phillis Wu, Olive View Medical Center – UCLA

“Just wanted to let you know that the patient feedback we've gotten so far has been so overwhelmingly positive. They LOVE it and really say it makes a difference in clinic (patients have said it feels like you are at a 'real' cancer center). Beyond that, this project has inspired some of our higher-ups to want to do a redesign for our other clinics, as they are able to see what a big difference these changes have made! One patient actually asked (a little confused) to clarify if the clinic was on the 2nd floor because they saw the skylights and wondered why they could look outside. Lol. Thanks again for all of your amazing work!”
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Imagine. Three times. Three times diagnosed, three times sitting in a chemotherapy center hoping for the best. Fighting for her life in drab, dismal, uninspiring surroundings. She is in the twilight of her years and wants to give up. No one could blame her.

Friday afternoon: Her chemotherapy session is over. Finally. The kind faced nurses say good-bye and wish her a good weekend. They promise to see her Monday bright and early. Everyone is tired. Yet another Monday looming in her future with the fear and difficulty of chemotherapy. It would be easier perhaps if it wasn’t so…. so…. so hard, lonely, and scary...

For the past six months we have planned and designed the transformation of these rooms and have decided on a spa theme. It is 4pm on that Friday afternoon.  I am waiting in the wings with a fabulous group of volunteers: Our RTR4C designer Cora Sue Anthony and our East Coast project coordinator AmyO, together with worker bees from Home Depot, and the local community, 100% volunteers

Our team numbers 90: All there to make a difference in the lives of those receiving chemotherapy. We don’t all know each other but we all agree, together we will make a difference. Our work must be completed in one quick weekend…we don’t have the luxury of time.

On your mark, get set, go!
It is now Friday night...we stay until midnight, looking over the site, checking our inventory, paint, and supplies, outdoor building space, food arranged for all volunteers. - Check
New lighting – Nope. (Put that on the list for Saturday and make a note to send someone out shopping). Make sure the volunteer Tee Shirts and wall art arrived.

Saturday is a whirlwind of painting and stenciling.

It is now Sunday near midnight: Eight rooms are completed and restored. The wall art is hung.
Decorator touches are in place. The environment is abuzz with hope and new beginnings.

Monday morning she arrives for her appointment.  She shuffles actually, shoulders sagging, head down. No hurry. She looks up to sign in at the front desk to find it, well, unrecognizable! The walls have been painted in soothing colors, beautiful artwork, murals, and stencils are placed perfectly between the new privacy curtains and the chemotherapy chairs, even the waiting room is inviting and fresh.

She can feel the brilliance, the kindness coming out of each nook and cranny.
She wonders who would do such a thing? Why our Center?  How did this happen?

It is then she sees the ribbon cutting ceremony and hears the many “oh's and ah's” from staff and patients alike. She hears the story of RTR4C and its wonderful volunteers.

With tears streaming down her face, she sits in a new chemotherapy chair facing the party, taking it all in. Her eyes twinkle; the room sparkles. Asked her opinion of the transformation, she almost jumps out of her chair with a spryness not seen lately by staff or fellow chemo buddies. She smiles a great big smile and says,

“Oh yea, this is great. I’m gonna beat it. Yes, I’m gonna beat it this time.  It is bea - u – ti- ful!”

This facility is just one of our 15 projects completed since our inception in May 2011. This woman with her newly found strength represents just one of over 500,000 patient visits per year in a room that rocks for chemo.  



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Nancy Ballard founded RTR4C because she saw a very real need to reach out to those who are often marginalized because of cancer and who, because of their urgent health needs, must accept without complaint what is given to them. She saw that those receiving chemotherapy in hopes of saving their lives were often subjected to dismal, dark, and non-healing environments without thought, time or consideration given to comfort, rest and tranquility. Patients and family members sought to get through the grueling ordeal of cancer while in rooms that often did not support their human dignity or struggle.

Nancy Ballard and RTR4C address a population that is sometimes hidden away and left to get through their struggle alone. RTR4C is the first organization to have the vision to acknowledge the problem of drab chemo room environments and to single-handedly give of time, self and money to see that a solution be found.

By involving the local community, designers and volunteers in the project of beautifying and humanizing these spaces, the needs of those who are marginalized due to illness is addressed. Patients are provided with a very concrete sign of care and concern, bringing awareness to the fact that they are so much more than just a number in a harsh and difficult system.

RTR4C also represents the passionate donation of talents, time and money from thousands of volunteers, and local and national businesses via their donation of supplies and sponsorships. All of these volunteers and donors have responded with enthusiasm and gratitude for the opportunity to be involved.

These "rocked rooms" have brought an increased awareness to health care professionals and local community leaders, of the needs of this population. The project has also brought gratitude and appreciation to those who have benefited from the healing and soothing effects, and has given the community volunteers a sense of accomplishment and a deeper appreciation of the plight of those who are in need of healing. The wonder of it all is that these volunteers want to keep on giving, and thus the continuity of this project as a long-term solution to a truly world wide challenge has huge momentum. As an added bonus, this organization has improved the daily lives of those who by profession serve this population, and it is challenging other communities to do likewise.

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