Jul 19, 2017

One year on from chemo - healed with the help of art

This morning a facebook memory popped up on my phone and it was the blog post from one year ago today, my first round of chemo. I clicked on the link and I barely recognised the girl in the photo's. When I read through the post I thought how positive I sounded, but to be honest that was probably just the steroids talking, I was pretty high on dexmethesone at the time that I wrote it. I was also trying my hardest to be brave and I thought that a positive attitude was the best way to face it.

When I looked through those memories, I felt sad for that girl facing what she was about to face but also proud of how she handled it. It doesn't feel real and it doesn't even feel like that girl was actually me.

While looking back at those memories isn't something I want to focus on, sometimes I really do just want to pretend it all never happened, they're a huge part of who I am now, whether I like it or not.

Sometimes I'm sad that so much of who I am has been 'affected' by cancer, from the physical changes of losing a boob to losing my hair, to the emotional changes of being terrified of dying, to carrying the weight of what it feels like to have had it, the fears, the vulnerability, the whole experience....it just changes you. Sometimes I feel damaged, I feel older and that pisses me off. I miss the younger, carefree, two-boobed version of me.

But then, there's so many flip-sides to it. Pain really does make you grow as a person. I appreciate everything now. When I'm experiencing happiness now, I really feel it, 10x more than I ever used to.

Being true to myself and making my soul happy has become an addiction. If it wasn't for cancer, I never would have had the courage to quit my job and make my art my full time career. Art is something I have always done, ever since I was a kid, when I went to college to study art, when I went travelling, when I worked full time, when I worked part time, when I had my two babies...But it was really just a hobby. I'd sell my work now and again but it wasn't a 'career'. Over the last few years I would draw and paint practically every day. I would get up at 5am to paint something before I had to start getting ready for work at 7am. I'd photograph it, instagram it and sell my work online. I LOVED it...but I always had to work to pay the bills, I couldn't give up my secure income in the hopes of growing my business. I didn't think I was good enough, and you just can't take risks like that when you have kids. But it was always what I wanted and what I dreamed about every day. I resented any time away from my painting and as a result was always rushing things to fit that time in, waking up ridiculously early or going to bed at midnight when I had to work the next day.

Then I got cancer. And whilst I continued to work from home for a few weeks for the magazine I had been working for at the time, I could no longer carry on that position whilst I was going through chemo. I couldn't physically be there and I needed to reduce the stress in my life, to focus on getting through treatment.

But I never stopped drawing and painting. There were days when I would be literally unable to move from the couch, feeling drugged up and uneasy, too tired or too weak to stand up but unable to sleep because of all the steroids keeping my body in fight mode, I tried to read books and lose myself in the fictional lives of other people, but my concentration span and mind was all over the place and I just couldn't get into a book, for the first time in my life.

All I could do was draw. I'd sit on the couch with my sketchbook every day, then on the days I felt well enough I'd sit at my desk and do little watercolours, then get up and paint at my easel and work on big canvases. Painting, like writing is therapy for me and over the last year as a result of throwing my whole self into it, the 'business' side of things has started to pay off. People started buying my little watercolours and my big canvases, as soon as I listed them, as well as prints. It was amazing.

Now I'm in the position that I am healthy again, although navigating the tamoxifen drug, it's a breeze compared to the other treatment I've received over the last year. I believe my art helped heal me and, especially help me get through some of the emotional shit storms And although I wish it hadn't taken getting breast cancer to force me to quit my job and follow my dreams, I'm glad I finally did it.

Thank you so much to everyone who has purchased a piece of artwork from me over the last year, whether it was a print, a canvas or a commission, every single sale means the absolute world to me and it's only because of the support I've received I can continue to keep working on my art and doing what I love, but even more importantly, focus on my health and spending time with my precious children.



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