This and the next post were written during a sleepless post-surgery night whilst heavily dosed on morphine. They are unedited apart from correcting the horrendous spelling mistakes caused by tiredness combined with a tiny qwerty keyboard…. Beware…..holy melancholy batman!

From reading a few blogs written by breast cancer survivors, and now by writing my own, it is clear to me that it is nigh on impossible to write about the experience of cancer without falling into using cancer cliches. You know the ones…. rediscovering self; making the most of life; re-evaluating past and current choices; painfully dissecting what makes us human….

Today it really hit me, the enormity of this situation  that I now find myself in. Whilst I have made jokes of winning board games by using the ‘cancer card’ and being frustrated at the time all of this is taking from my daily life; feeling absolute compassion for those with ‘more serious’ forms of cancer compared to my mini wilhamina today I found myself waiting….again… after a rather uncomfortable procedure to insert a guiding wire into my breast and another (equally uncomfortable mammogram). Sitting in the breast unit, clutching my notes and watching women coming to-and-fro, be-wigged, seeing more pixie haircuts than you can shake a stick at and knowing that in the next hour or so I would be in surgery. The fear and realisation was overwhelming and I felt weighed down by all that is happening; I felt very small: I felt rising panic about all that is ahead of me.

If there is one thing I wish to be, over everything else in this blog, it is to be honest, even when that might be painful. Yes, I would love to give the impression of unfailing strength, to show how brave I can be, to show humour and a cetain poise at all times, but the reality is that this is not always possible. I had never for a second pondered how I would cope if faced with cancer until now. I always thought I would crumble. In truth you just get on with whatever needs to be done. You just ‘are’ and continue to ‘be’. I wish with all my heart that I had the wit and humour and talent to write in a similar vein to this lovely lady but whilst in life, I can bring on the witty banter, in writing here it is always my ancient melancholic soul that comes to the fore. I realise that this does not exactly make for an inspiring or particularly entertaining read and it also smacks of irritating self indulgence but as I said at the beginning of this experience… all I can do is go with the flow.

My character is sculpted buy it’s contrasts, flaws and inconsitencies. I can be contrary and solitary, selfish and moody. Whilst dealing with this quite frankly, rubbish situation I find myself in, I absolutely welcome this chance to evaluate my life, my personality and my future whilst retaining those parts of me that are wholly unique. I crave the opportunity to be a more consistant friend, a more communicative daughter and sister, a braver less fearful artist and writer, a more adventurous spirit and a more loving and patient partner.

Whilst the downsides are

a) I have cancer

b) the treatment may suck

c) I am having to spend time, energy and headspace on this when I could be doing other things

The upsides are infinitely more numerous

a) I get to find out the heart of what makes me tick as a person

b) I get to explore a whole new side to myself in my artwork, whether literally or figuratively, I am sure it will inspire me in some way and I am excited to see what will happen

c) I know how precious my life is and I will not waste another minute on ‘thinking about what I want to achieve’, I will get on and do it. I am the ultimate procrastinator and it drives me to distraction (edit: In hindsight perhaps this was a bit of morphine-induced fantastical thinking… I of course realise that a leapord cannot truly change her spots overnight!)

d) I get to be more thankful than I have ever been in my life for my family and friends.

e) there are of course many, many more but I am shattered…………

So there we have it, post surgery mutterings and possible morphine unduced delirium. I am home now, feeling as I have been hit by a truck but happy to be on my way to my own bed. Next post is the ‘too much information post’ again unedited and written on my phone at around 4 am post surgery…. I shall save that delight for tomorrow! I do make every effort to give a rounded version of the whole experience for your reading pleasure! I am just grateful I did not attempt to take photos….



About gillianleesmith

A lifetime fascination with storytelling, history, fairytales and folklore, has led me to create imagery based on the everyday whirling mind of a person who does not always wish to be rooted in the realistic present. Themes of times gone by and reminiscence are especially evident in my designs and my work often delves into the expression and characterisation of our human nature, which we may hide away and only ever glimpse at when prompted by a reflection of our inner selves. My character sculptures in particular are a nod towards my own imaginations, avid reading and childhood dreams. They are a way of seeking the perfect representation of our character. Each tells an original tale, with a single image that endeavors to embody a whole life story in an uncomplicated way. My most recent work begins to explore ‘dwelling places’, a place where we can truly be content and again the setting that truly represents our character and history. Each material used is carefully chosen to create layers of texture incorporating textiles, paper, paint, hand painted imagery and meticulously detailed hand embroidery. The combinations of varying media help me to create many layers and textures, which are evocative of the memories and history that is integral to my work. Graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in Performance Costume in 2005, I have since been working on my own creations as well as teaching workshops with community groups. More recently, I have been coordinating a project involving reminiscence work with older people. This has been a huge source of inspiration to my latest artwork and themes of memories, dreams and childhood.
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