Twist on Cancer: “In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.”When I got my cancer diagnosis (of GIST) I was in the middle of loving and parenting my three kids-through fractions, talent shows, PSAT's, sleepovers,training bras, Boy Scouts and unfortunately a profound case of Autism Spectrum Disorder complicated by Childhood Schizophrenia. Cancer?! I didn't have time to have cancer, nevermind attempting to fight it. Could cancer maybe reschedule with me in 12 months?And although my prognosis was good there were *possibilities* that couldn't be shrugged off. Surgeries, signatures, and forms. We got the kids a dog as a kind of consolation prize for the inconvenience of illness. I found a pretty dress and placed a ribbon around the hanger so my husband would know what to bury me in in case our best laid plans fell apart.
Flighty, wildly creative, and inspired as a child. I had mastered adulthood by holding on to efficiency and productivity like a lucky rabbit's foot. I would handle cancer the same way. Spreadsheets and carefully calculated statistics. The Jae who would sit in algebra class quietly copying an Art Spiegelman comic was gone.
Or maybe she wasn't.
A lot of people won't tell you how much Cancer HURTS. Or how much chemotherapy HURTS. Or even after you've rung the bell and chemo is over how much After-Cancer HURTS.
I started dealing with my pain the way that I dealt with my pain in childhood-I drew.
I drew, I sketched, I played in paint, I wrote. I helped other artists find the resources they needed to make great art. It was like relearning a language. Unembarrassed by my stumbles and mistakes but having something to say.
And wanting so desperately to say it.
So many times when I felt like there was no time to make and simply inhale, my family helped me make time. My daughter became my assistant and my son my tech.
They both created digital and practical art and found outlets of creativity that offered cognitive and emotional benefits.
I founded my studio in 2017.
The first time my art hung in an exhibition (at WomanMade Gallery my creative home) I felt my *mask* slip into place and hot damn...I could breathe. I breathed in all the colors, shapes, and ideas of my childhood and it felt GREAT!
My journey has brought me into contact with old friends and colleagues. But, there have been some new and truly exciting projects with NFPs like Brushes with Cancer. Collaborating with Joelle has been fun, funny, and a lesson in letting go a little bit. Hmm, orange skins? Okay! Why yes, I do love rabbits! We bounced ideas back and forth like a rubber ball. It was both being in control and letting go.
Art is for EVERYONE.
From first gulps to final gasps there's room for us all.
That combined with COVID has made me treasure every lung full of air in a way that even cancer couldn't. And I'm hugely grateful to Joelle, Brushes with Cancer, and the entire Twist community for this experience.