Hand On Heart

How would you describe your initial reactions and feelings when you first received your breast cancer diagnosis?

I was shocked but not surprised. I had know for a few years that something was wrong due to the exhaustion I felt however as there were no other symptoms, I did not find out until an awful stabbing pain in my breast lead me to examine myself more carefully which is when I found a lump deep within my breast. I felt sick when I was told it was metastatic cancer. My first thought was of my children, they are too young for me to die! I was devastated for them more than myself.

What aspects of your individuality do you feel have been most challenged, changed or strengthened by this experience?

It’s a cliché but I realised that I had been going through the motions like a zombie, not really living life. It made me reevaluate what is important. Each day is a gift and I appreciate that my employer has such an amazing health plan that I have been able to access the best possible medical treatment which I am thrilled to say has saved my life. I take time for myself. I don’t allow people to be dependent on me as much as before. I set boundaries and say no when I need to. I put my needs first more often now as never did before. 

Are there specific moments or experiences in your cancer journey that stand out to you, which you would like depicted in the sculpture?

First scans after final radiotherapy showing no signs of active cancer was an amazing day. I was relieved and felt like a weight had been lifted. I am however still acutely aware that due to the metastasis, I will forever be considered high risk for secondary cancers and o also have to continue taking anti cancer medication and hormone therapy which come with their own side effects and issues.

How has your perspective on life and your own identity evolved since your diagnosis?

I feel lucky to have been given another chance at life. I don’t waste time anymore stressing about what’s not in my control. I don’t try to be a perfectionist anymore and I have much more fun. 

In what ways do you feel bravery has played a role in your cancer journey? Are there particular instances of courage that you’d like represented?

I carried on with life as normal. I didn’t allow the illness to affect my family. The only real time that there was a noticeable issue was when I had to leave the island for radiotherapy. I had to be very brave to leave them. 

How do you want the world to see you through this sculpture? What part of your reality, character, or experience would you like it to emphasise?

I would like people to understand that life is precious and it’s not a joke when you’re told to look after yourself and take care of your body and mental health. I am sure that my illness came from stress, lack of exercise and poor diet. I have learned so much and made many changes to become healthier both physically and mentally. I still have a lot of work to do but I’m improving every day. 

What has been your source of strength and resilience throughout your journey with breast cancer?

My love for life and for my family. I’m not ready to leave this world yet. 

What does being a part of this exhibition mean to you? How do you hope it might impact others who see your sculpture?

I hope it helps people think about cancer and how much it affects so many people. I would like to think it gives people hope and proves that medical treatment is improving every year. 10 years ago, the medication I take now and that saved me was not available and neither was the type of radiotherapy that healed the cancer spots in my bones. 

Is there a specific message or emotion you want to convey to the audience of this exhibition, particularly to those who might be going through a similar experience?

Look after yourself and forgive yourself. Take each day as it comes and find something to be grateful for every day.

Touch, Look, Check (TLC)

Give your boobs some TLC to look for early signs of breast cancer.