Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Day 12 #pathways2resilience ~ Zara

Special Feature Edition: Pathways to Resilience: Embracing our Vulnerability, Celebrating our Resilience

My text book of cancer emotions...

They say that a picture speaks louder than a thousand words. For Zara, an artist and a member of our group, a picture conveys more than a thousand emotions, mixed, moving and intensifying. They speak quietly, yet are penetrative. Zara's art on conveying the many emotional roller coasters that breast cancer brings with it, is breathtaking. Her sketchbook, her companion while undergoing chemotherapy, sings. Take a look at how she's used her medical notes to convey the many mixed emotions of pain, fear, gratitude, love, and despair in one sketch: "I want to make something beautiful out of something ugly". Landscapes post treatment look ambiguous, showing the uncertainty that covers the seeds of our survivorship and our hopes.

For our month long project #pathways2resilience, we are delighted to introduce Zara's first blog for Panning for Gold, 'My sketchbook of breast cancer emotions'.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 aged 51. Very quickly I had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. For a woman who has always been fairly neurotic and prone to anxiety and depression I took it well. I was "strong", "brave" and even funny- apart from when I wasn't but I kept my meltdowns private. I felt very grateful for having children old enough to have left home and not to have to witness the dark days. My husband was wonderful, I have great friends, countryside, lucky me!



'On being diagnosed with breast cancer' (May 2014) 130 x 150 cm


Actually, I hate the narrative of being strong and brave. Also I struggle with the endless requests for donations, the videos on social media whisking us through the 'journey' - Hospital, baldness, cats on the bed, followed by pink balloons, marathons and tears of joy! I get it, but for some reason it makes me angry. Perhaps because we struggle financially and I want to dedicate my time to other things rather than breast cancer. Then I feel guilty and mean, but that's my "stuff".



Before becoming a full time painter in 2009 I was a Social worker working with the most damaged children and families. In latter years I worked therapeutically with families affected by addiction. Using art to help others express themselves was an aspect of my work that I loved. It wasn't about being "good" at it, but an opportunity to work visually to explore and manage feelings. Art has always been a part of my life. Painting the landscape, being out there with myself, escaping from everything else and doing what I love to do, ticks all my boxes. I like painting portraits as well and drawing and sketching and doodling – doing anything that involves art.

I took my sketchbook to every chemo session. Horrified by the red liquid going into my veins I looked away and drew like a maniac, sometimes I would sketch the patients opposite me.



For some reason I kept all my medical notes. I remember thinking "I want to make something beautiful out of something ugly" My first collage wasn't beautiful at all. But I think I achieved that with 'Hot cheeks' and with some of my recent work. They are not so graphic now. Little pieces of Tamoxifen packets woven here and there, hidden in the landscape for the viewer to spot or not. I follow the Building resilience in breast cancer FB page but rarely comment. My respect and admiration for the women on there goes beyond words, it scares me too. So far I have been lucky. The "gift" for me has been a creative energy and on a good day, an ability to live in the moment.



Later I shall be at the hospital having a lump checked out on my remaining breast. "I'm sure it will be fine" I say to others and myself. But deep down I am terrified.


At the chapel (2) Charcoal & collage - 130 x 150 cm




www.zara-McQueen.co.uk



#panningforgold #pathways2resilience
#bcresiliencecentre #breastcancerawareness

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