So, this is the last day of the Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month and I hope my, albeit tiny contribution to the campaign has been of some interest and maybe inspired some thought on the issue. Of course, even though the sun will go down for the last time for this September 2017, it does not mean that women are not still being diagnosed with some form of gynae cancer every day, and for that reason neither does it mean that the Drawing Women’s Cancer project will end. I will continue to make work to articulate patient experience, and I am always interested in making contact with any organisations that might be interested in collaboration with me. I think that what I do offers a rich and probably unique perspective, through creative practice, on a form of life experience that is profound sometimes beyond conventional explication, and where respect and empathy for the patient as a person and a unique individual is sometimes lacking in the storm of diagnosis and treatment Drawing Women’s cancer project tries to address this.
It goes without saying that I remain in grateful debt to all those who have participated in and supported my work in so many different ways.
Today’s post in support of the Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month and the Eve Appeal campaign derives from notes I made after having a conversation with an elderly woman diagnosed with gynae cancer. For me, sometimes when I write, the prose poetry form evokes the emotion far more than a conventional narrative, and its imagery is inherent.
The self before
The self that has the disease
The self after
Can you forget?
‘I don’t know’
She tells me of the shock, the fear she felt on diagnosis
‘I went numb, I was beyond myself’.
who was with her
just ‘fell apart’.
She is going to Yorkshire to attend her daughters wedding.
Today’s post in support of the Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month and the Eve Appeal campaign recalls that my attending and drawing in theatre has been, and remains a vital part of the work that I do. ‘Being there’ for the woman undergoing the procedure helps me understand her experience and empathise with her at a very visceral level. It has also been a pleasure to see, first hand, the surgeons at work, and to enjoy the trust given me by both staff and patients.
Here is today’s post in support of Gynaecological Cancer awareness month and the Eve Appeal.
The DWC Exhibition in Cardiff Central Library in 2014 was a great success. The talk/presentation that we put on during the month that the show was up was well attended by patients and their families, and by medical staff. Their feedback, and that of the many members of the general public who visited, for both the exhibition and the project as a whole was really useful for ongoing work since then.
In all my projects I prefer to exhibit the work in public spaces rather than in commercial galleries so that the maximum number of people have the chance to see it and engage with the ideas and sentiments that underpin the DWC project. The Library was therefore ideal. Sadly, three years on, the exhibition space is no more as the Library has converted it… in fact I believe we were the final exhibitors there. At least it finished on a high note!
Today’s post in support of the Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month and the Eve Appeal campaign is taken from a narrative that I wrote in 2014 about attending an operation for an abdominal hysterectomy. The full piece was published on the BMJ Medical Humanities blog:
She is asleep now under the lights in the theatre. The lights are not harsh, just very strong. The huge circular structures from which they descend are acutely and disturbingly present, not just here in the room, but even more powerfully in my memory. The monstrous size of them and the pitiless, piercing illumination they provide still haunts me, despite my efforts to exorcise the horror of my own experience in the weeks that followed in paint on canvas.
I am anxious then, for her, for me, for us both. This operation is one that remains very close to the surface of my own consciousness and my presence here has psychological connotations that I cannot ignore or supplant with more rational thought, so deeply are they rooted. This is a test then to the personal limit of my focus on subjective experience. The surgeon knows this of me. She asked when we arranged this visit, “Are you going to be OK with this one?” I felt the same way I did when she asked the very first question, the one that kick-started the whole Drawing Women’s Cancer project; she had said “Can you draw what it feels like to have gynaecological cancer rather than just what it looks like?” I knew then that I wanted to try.