P. Claire Dodson
September 14, 2015 3:24 pm

Picture your happy place. Maybe it’s an empty beach on a warm day. Maybe it’s hanging out with your besties. If you’re 13-year-old Hunter, it’s a kaleidoscope of color replete with flying pandas and a walrus wizard.

Hunter has an incredible imagination. He also has more to escape from than your average teen. Last year, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that turned into brain cancer. Since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, interviewed Hunter and four other patients about their happiest imaginary place and had a photographer and illustrator turn their descriptions into vivid drawings. It’s called the Happy Place Project, and it’s bringing Hunter’s and other kids’ imaginations to life.

“For kids who are battling cancer, the practice of ‘going to your happy place’ is more than just a playful activity; it’s an important coping mechanism that we use every day,” a hospital spokesperson told HelloGiggles. “It has a calming and hopeful effect on the kids.”

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta posted the finished images along with quotes from each child, and we’re thoroughly blown away by the results. “We were inspired by the beautiful worlds our patients created,” a hospital spokesperson told us. “Each child’s happy place is unique and meaningful to them.” Here’s what their happy places looked like when they were brought to life.

Lauren’s Happy Place

11-year-old Lauren is now cancer free, but remembers her own unique happy place. “When I was getting anxious or scared, Mommy would say ‘Go to your happy place, go to your happy place.’” It’s a colorful wonderland, complete with sparkles, a fairy, a “soft-horned” unicorn and unlimited Barbies. Also making the cut, Lauren’s therapy dog, Hope.

Justice’s Happy Place

16-year-old Justice has leukemia, and her oasis is a picnic on the grounds of an Italian castle, with all the cheese, pasta and bread she can eat. Most importantly, it’s free of “dependence, anger, or frustration.” We feel this so hard, Justice.

Alex’s Happy Place

Alex is now cancer free, but he spent four years fighting through chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, spinal taps and bone marrow aspirates, which meant long weeks in the hospital. His happy place is simple: home. His walls are lined with pictures of his favorite athletes (and animals), there are Legos aplenty, lots of trophies and he even has a drum set.

Mya’s Happy Place

Doctors first discovered 11-year-old Mya’s bone cancer when she felt a pop in her knee while playing at school. She has since undergone surgery, resulting in the amputation of her leg just above the knee. Her happy place is the lovely beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the sun is shining on her face. Crutches and her wheelchair are nowhere to be seen.

For more on the Happy Place Project, check out this beautiful video the project’s organizers created, featuring all five super-strong, super-creative participants.

(Photos courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Related:

At 24, I was diagnosed with cancer. Here’s what I wish people knew.

The amazing way this cancer survivor celebrated her one year anniversary

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