My Cancer

my cancerI created this painting to show the suffering and trauma of cancer sufferers. Having just gone through it myself last year, I felt compelled to illustrate how I felt through this difficult time. I photoshopped the middle female shape to make it look human but raw, I drew in ink-pen the flowery curves around, REPRESENTING THE SOFTNESS AND COMPASSION OF MY BEAUTIFUL LIFE. Then I spread some DARK acrylic paint thickened with sand to represent the FEELING OF BEING HAUNTED AND OPPRESSED BY THE CANCER, CONSTANTLY TRYING TO INVADE MY MIND, AFTER SUCCESSFULLY INVADING MY BODY.

i WROTE THE following text to accompany the painting: IT further illustrates my fight with the aftermath of a mastectomy, a time when a patient feels overwhelmed by raw and scary emotions, and often finds it difficult to calm down, to breathe or to simply be…

my cancer part 2Tiny moments in my beautiful life: A seagull stuck in the wind, trying to fly against it but only managing to bob up and down because the wind is too strong for him to push forward. Mike and I are waiting to move into our new home, his wonderful daughters are coming home for Christmas. Everything is perfect.

I am waiting for some test results at QA, I am not worried. It is only a stain, probably just some eczema. They will send me back in no time. But the doctor starts speaking really slowly. He articulates every word very carefully, staring at me straight in the face. I recognise the signs. I have been through this before 10 years ago, and I freeze on my chair. I answer the doctor’s questions and when he says the word cancer, that’s when the white noise starts. I feel I am going to fall so I grab both sides of the chair and I stretch forward, towards the doctor. I want to drink his words, deeply convinced that his quiet peaceful voice will soothe me and make it all better. I can feel my eyes growing larger, bigger than my head, taking over the whole room, and all I can see is the doctor talking to me. I am trying to listen but my ears have shrank inside of me and all I can hear is the white noise inside my head. I remember Mike is sitting next to me. I reach out without looking and I find his hand right away. This grounds me. Brings me back to where I am, and I can hear again.

I swim through a murky sea of feelings and emotions, trying to grab from the doctor the words that will save me from sinking: breast cancer, mastectomy, early stage, good prognostic. I push down an overwhelming and primal urge to simultaneously panic, hyperventilate, scream, cry, curl up on the floor moaning “not again, not again, not again!” Mike holds on to my hand hard, we don’t let go of each other.

Back home, I want to lash out at people for no other reason than to give me a target for the wrath this news has awakened alongside the fear. When I am alone, I allow myself to feel its full strength: my mouth opens up larger than my head, letting out the rage I have been suppressing, like trying to push out a demon possessing me. I want to pour myself inside out so I can see the cancer attached to the red flesh of my breast, so I can grab it, tear it off and throw it as far away from me as I can. Mike comes in and hugs me, and I collapse, exhausted. I don’t want to feel such anger, it won’t help me heal. I need to find a way to ground myself.

Cancer treatment attacks the body and the senses in a savage, cruel and painful way. It involves cutting up parts of your body, burning it with radiations, poisoning it with chemicals. Your brain cannot deal with such relentless attacks and soon, the only thing you can cope with is the present moment. You find yourself paying attention to the smallest, minutest pieces of time. The ones that are happening now, in this moment, because that’s all you can cope with.

Feeding the tortoise, sitting cross legged in front of her, watching her locating the food, tasting it slowly, and then gulping it down fast as it is her favourite food. Waiting until she has finished it all and observing how she will carefully and methodically find the last little crumb left, even the tiniest ones she will manage to find and pick off the ground.

A snail crawling across the patio one rainy day, watching him slide from the right to the left. He slides and crawls across the wet and shiny red slabs, avoiding a little pebble there but climbing over a broken twig here, leaving that pale and glistering silver trail behind him.

Ironing clothes, slowly, methodically, paying extra attention to that particularly awkward cuff, doing it twice just in case, inhaling the smell of the hot iron over the clean linen, the sprayed water evaporating in gushes of scented white smoke.

A seagull stuck in the wind, trying to fly against it but only managing to bob up and down because the wind is too strong for him to push forward. I watch him and realise he wasn’t struggling, only waiting for a warm ascendant allowing him to fly sideways, not in the straight line he wanted, but bringing him closer to where he wanted to be.

Tiny moments in my beautiful life.

my cancer part 1