Words, Thoughts, Prose
If you would like to share your journey, words and thoughts, send them to us using the contact form or e mail link in the "Contact Us" section above.
BREATHLESS BREASTLESS PROJECT OPENING NIGHT SPEECH 12TH JUNE 2014
Good evening and a very warm welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, Provost Webster and Lord Provost.
I never viewed my cancer as a battle or a fight. In battles there are winners and there are losers. I did not want to lose. I did not have the energy or the strength to go to war. I was not brave. I was focused and I was optimistic.
Caught early breast cancer is now very treatable but still one thousand lives a month are lost in the United Kingdom to this disease. Around 400 men a year are also diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK. This is still a little known fact. I had no idea there were 10 different types of breast cancer. Mine was less common, invasive lobular carcinoma. It took 7 weeks to diagnose.
My first mammogram on 18th June 2012, just two years ago, was the start of a challenging and quite incredible journey.
Primarily, I have found out who and what are important in my life, who my true friends are and who really cares about me. The two things that will remain with me from my cancer experience are –
It is all about now. Not the past or the future, but today.
There is no time like the present, and there is no present, like time. Time is the most valuable gift that we will ever have.
For one participant of the project, sadly time ran out. Hannah died on 6th May less than three years since her diagnosis, just 10 weeks since she found out her breast cancer had spread. She was 36. Hannah wished to share her journey and we are proud to be exhibiting Hannah’s portraits this evening.
Secondly, I have learnt that anything is possible.
A cancer diagnosis knocked me off my feet, and so far out of my comfort zone, taking away my control and filling me with fear that no other challenge life throws at me will ever be quite so tough.
My comfort zone has grown and so have I.
I am not an artist. I have never organised an exhibition. But I had a vision. I wished to share my breast cancer journey and bring together through art, people who were travelling similar paths.
This evening you can see these journeys, you may feel the emotional expression and see the hope and the healing in these images and words.
My thanks go to all the people who have made this exhibition possible.
Thank you to all the artists who believed in my vision and who have worked so hard during the past six months.
To all of our sponsors, Interwell, The Fine Food Company, Robert Molson, ABHTIC, Peacock Visual Arts and family and friends.
Thank you to Aberdeen City Council, Vibrant Aberdeen, Seventeen and especially to Rona Macaulay who has provided wonderful support to the project throughout the last few months.
We are grateful to Maggies centre who have two volunteers here this evening to provide information to anyone who wishes to find out what the centre offers for cancer patients and their families or if anyone needs any support.
Finally, my thanks go to all the breast cancer survivors who were willing to share their journeys.
Please leave your name and any comments in our guest book, and feel free to participate in the exhibition by leaving your thoughts on our tree of life.
We have collection boxes available if you wish to support one of the cancer charities, MacMillan, Maggies or Breast Cancer care.
There will be a second chance to see the exhibition from 8th September where it will show for one month at the Arts Centre & Theatre King Street.
If you have any questions about the project we welcome you talk to any of the participants and artists who are wearing Project Badges.
Please now join with us this evening, in a celebration of life.
BREATHLESS, BREASTLESS by Louise
Breathless, breastless, tight band down arm to chest
Looks down to the red biro line, where once she saw her breast
Turns side on to the mirror, her curves of female form
But turn the other way and her missing breast she mourns.
No symmetry, lop-sided, imbalance in her shape
Already learnt to hide the bumps, a pretty scarf she drapes.
Prosthesis, fake, it feels so false, elastic that digs in
Prefers to go “au natural” and wear only her skin.
Breastless, breathless, stabs and jabs within
Drugs to ease the pain, warm oil to soothe the skin
Weary nights, toss and turn, can’t lay upon her side
Pillows, cushions rest her bones, too many tears she’s cried.
Her battle or her war to win? To fight with all her might?
No winners here, or soldiers brave, no heroes in the night
Light the way in a tunnel dark, brighten mind and soul
Be healed, be strong and live this life, regaining dreams, her goal.
I'M NOT BRAVE by Louise 2012
I’m not brave and I’m not a soldier,
But I carry the scars, they’ll fade when I’m older
Not a battle to win or a mountain to climb
A bump in the road, a journey in time.
Silent but deadly, invades from within
Cancerous cells hide beneath skin
“You’re looking so well” everyone says
Can’t see the illness and the games that it plays.
Surgery, treatment, drugs to stay well,
Disfigured chest, can anyone tell?
Tamoxifen side effects, heavy monthly bleed
Losing of iron causes fatigue
Five years of drugs to keep it away
Will it return, no one can say
Bucket list written, do it all just in case
Life with new meaning, I’ve stared cancer in the face.
CANCER BE WARNED by Barbara Devey 2013
No matter what ….
I will not ...
run away from you
pretend you are not there
care when you take my hair
be frightened to mention your name
ever give up attacking you back
let you break my heart
i will …..
warn everyone about you
fight you any way I can
tell everyone how cruel you are
raise money to research you
wear pink to annoy you
say you fight dirty & hurt babies & children
…. Never ever give up my fight
So look out Cancer I am coming to get you ...
and i know others who love me who will be coming to get you too.
DEAR BODY by Dee 2013
We've come through some rough times, you and I. We've been torn and battered before, but we came through it. This time was different. Advanced cancer. The tumours doubling in size about every six weeks and there was always more of them each time. We chose our own way and went to war. We lost ground along the way, two breasts removed down to the bone. The lymph nodes lost as well. We lost lots of battles, but we won this war. Late stage 3, they told us, my body and I, and it will probably come back.
Not if we have anything to say about it. My body and I.
THREE MONTHS ON by Lou 2014
I rub cream into my scars...I find myself content with one half and stunned by the other, not wanting to look because one side of me is like a label or a post it note saying I have had cancer.
My back is still very stiff and my shoulder, and I really struggle to do the exercises, physiotherapy is none existent and they signed me off a while ago after 2 appointments where they just told me to follow the sheet.
And they laughed when I asked for a back massage! I know it sounds ungrateful but I don’t like the look of the breast they made for me to be honest, its lumpy and bumpy and pretty unpleasant, it moves in odd ways with my arm and clings to me like a limpet when I bend forwards...and I feel like I am wearing an iron girdle.
MY NAME IS DOUG by Doug Harper
My name is Douglas Edward Harper. I was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer three days before my 50th birthday.
I had no idea before being diagnosed that men could get breast cancer. My partner had no idea that men could get breast cancer. My friends, my family, seemingly no one seemed to be aware that men could get breast cancer. And yet here I stand, well sit actually, with a cancerous lump in my chest, and on the verge of soon losing my man nipple.
On a positive note, my biggest worry in the entire world was to get cancer. Now I have cancer, that burden has been taken away so I can relax (in a way).
Pre cancer I was one of those people that would go out of their way to avoid any mention of the disease, in any media outlet. I did not want to think about it. If I was listening to the radio and cancer was mentioned, I would switch channels. I know that I am not the only person who did/does this. I have always been scared at the thought of cancer, maybe overly so. I am not even sure that I would read this blog! So thank you for reading it and helping me in my task of raising awareness of male breast cancer.
When I arrived at the ward I met the same people from the day before at the imaging dept who I had got on really well with. Strangely there was an almost party atmosphere, if you go to the sort of parties that are nil by mouth and no music. I have been to one party like that but I have tried to forget it.
As the only bloke with breast cancer there, I was to go to the theatre relatively quickly darlings. Yet another advantage (?) of being one of the 1%.
I had my BP (ark at me getting all the medical jargon) taken and it was an amazing 129/81 a personal best. A PB of my BP no less. It just goes to show how good all these tablets are.
Had me blood sugar taken and the nurse could not get any blood out of my left hand due to the fact that I play the bass and it had hardened my finger tips. I think they have put that on my notes. Not that it matters as I will not be allowed blood tests or anything like that after the operation, as it can cause Lymphedema.
The main advantage (if there is such a thing) about being a bloke with BC, is that when you contact anyone involved in BC for a second time and say your name, they usually know who you are as there are very few of us about.
There are obvious disadvantages as well. Most of the literature and groups are female friendly. For example: I was invited to go to Queen Mary’s at Sidcup for their Well Being Clinic . The letter stated that the clinic would accommodate around 12 women. There were discussions and promoting of understanding of post-op recovery. I declined to go, as I felt that my needs were totally different to that of women.
NINE YEARS ON by Jane
As a breast cancer survivor I don't feel necessarily empowered by breast cancer. After nine years I still feel a lot of different emotions- sadness, anger, hopeful, lucky and thankful.
Sad that the cancer happened at all and that I lost body parts and ended up with scars and pain, anger that it was me and not an 'unhealthy person', hopeful for my future, lucky because I got through it and so many other people didn't and thankful to all my friends, family and my husband who have helped and supported me on what is and still is a long journey.
My re construction failed for really un explained reasons and now I am 'flat' and that's okay, I'm learning to live with it and I prefer it that way. If there is one thing you learn from cancer it is ,that after a brush with death , why shouldn't you choose to do what you want and not what others want, after all we deserve that.
Life is about options and going through cancer treatment is an up and down and a very personal journey, it's not much fun but it's worth it just to be here now.
Diagnosis: breast cancer, Sept 2013 aged 43.
Treatment: FEC-T chemo, mastectomy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy
Tree Of Life Henna Tattoo
Hair loss occurred on day 12 of my first chemotherapy cycle, and was complete my December 1st. I'd always wanted a henna tattoo, and my sister offered to do one for me on my head. I'm hoping this is the only time I'll have chance to do this, and why not make the most of being bald?! Emma chose the tree of life design. Despite cancer, I am still alive and still me, and saw the tattoo as symbolic of life continuing after a cancer diagnosis, and through and after treatment.
Me: geologist, bassoonist, 2 kids, 2 cats
Emma: ecologist, sketcher, cat