As part of the Breast Cancer: a creative intervention project I am spending time in the operating theatre, observing and making written and visual notes. The images in this post are some examples. The idea is to develop these into more considered works back in the studio.
Despite my having had a lot of experience now of attending operations it is always a unique and profoundly moving thing to watch – especially as one of the patients undergoing a mastectomy was a lady I’d got to know on the ward. Her generosity in her willingness to allow me to be present for the procedure reminded me of other women who have been equally accepting of my request. In fact, some women have let me know that they actually appreciate the fact that someone is ‘there with them’ who is a lay person, neither family or a medical professional. For some, this is a form of comfort for them it seems – even though they know nothing about what is happening. This came vividly home to me when, dutifully and appropriately dressed in blue scrubs, I went into the room just before the patient was anaesthetised. On seeing me so attired she was startled, “You look like one of them now !” The women I have worked with are invariably, and big-heartedly keen to help with the project. They understand my need to understand and ‘experience’ with them – as much as that is possible – the ordeals that they are going through. They make me feel humble.
I am grateful of course also to the professionals who not only tolerate my presence but welcome me into their world. They patiently explain the procedures and answer my questions and I learn and absorb as much as I can each time I attend an operation. ‘Their world’ does indeed feel like a different place – a place where my sense of beong ‘outwith time’ is as focused as the surgeon’s every move, every cut, and where, even though the patient lies unconscious of whats going on around her, she is the main protagonist in this particular play.