As I work through the ideas underpinning my ‘Four Season’ group of paintings, I pause to draw breath and appreciate where I am right now. If you have followed my blogs you will have seen my tale of cancer, starting in November 2012 when I revealed the diagnosis. It continued through various posts including ‘Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror’, through being told I was cured then told not in ‘Escaping the Tunnel’. I detailed the pain of treatment in busy wards in ‘Traumatised’, and there are others you will find in the archives. But this is about now.
Now I am free of cancer. I have been tested and retested and am free. So, after nearly 5 years I can look forward again. More than that I can shed the weight that has been bearing down on me those years, and look around me again with my far from ‘innocent’ eye referred to in my last piece. Although it was mid-January when I was given the all clear it is only over the last few weeks I have begun to revel again in the knowledge as my belief in the diagnosis began to be real. People greet me with how well I look, some saying “what a pleasure it is to see you looking so much better”.
I can tell you what a pleasure it is for me to see each day as if a first day of spring, a renewal. It was this morning when I really began to finally shake off the load I have been carrying. I walked into Seaford and after the first ¼ mile I realised what a tranquil little haven I have ended up living in. I began to take snapshots of the beauty around me. Nothing spectacular although the famed Seven Sisters are just a short walk away, no, this was delight in the best of vernacular English domestic architecture.
Much of the Seaford around my house was developed just before and just after the Second World War. It is a mix of styles in which there are echoes of the past glories of the Art and Craft movement, and occasional indications of a realisation of the simplicity coming through Corbusier’s contemporary style, all complemented by the classic English gardens. Bijou? Certainly, and occasionally twee even but with a charm, a prettiness, that is undeniably Englishness.
My heart lifted as birdsong and dappling sunlight accompanied me. Fellow Seafordians exchanged greeting. “Warmer than you expected” said one as I unzipped my jacket, smiling as he walked home with his morning paper. Another lady laughed with me at her dogs. It was relaxed and joyful, reflecting my new mind-set, a new life to look forward to.
I take joy now in my new life spirit. Statistically one on every two of us will get cancer. Now the treatments are successful for half of that half, a proportion that increases all the time. Perhaps the images that led me to the ‘Four Seasons’ came out of an unconscious marking of the seasons through the illness, much in the way that the last ‘Daisy’ painting can be seen as the unconscious marking of the Brexit Spring.
I am in the autumn of my life now. I hope that, like my apple tree, it will be fruitful and full of colour. Inevitably there is always that fear at the back of the mind that the cancer will recur – as it has with a neighbour up the road. However, that fear is controllable, as distant in the mind as the spectre of death that appears as I get older. It is a bleak fear, like the fear of winter must be for many brief lives in the animal kingdom.
I hope that if you or one of your family are sufferers you too may enjoy your own Renaissance as I seem to be doing now. I hope that you have the support of a loving partner as I have had these past 17 years, and whose love has encompassed and sustained me. If you have, give thanks, and embrace life. I thank my local NHS hospital, its staff, and am determined that through my art I will give back, because I paint and therefore I am. I live, and look forward to more life.
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