Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To Everyone Else, You are Someone else

It has happened again. I just got word that another friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer.....well, at least it looks like breast cancer. She's due to have a biopsy soon. I found out in an email that she sent out. At the last part of the email, she commented "I have never smoked, never was on the pill, I breast fed all three babies and there is no breast cancer in my family."

How well I know that sentiment. We do everything right. In my case, I only had one baby who I breast fed, and I also was a vegetarian for about 4 years. I was active, I wasn't over weight (then). I biked like a fiend.....and still I got breast cancer.

You're sort of stunned. There is an aspect of "why me?" In my case, I didn't know I was supposed to be doing self breast exams...I was in my 30s. I didn't think you had to worry about that until you were in your late 40s at the earliest.

Dumb-butts abound. I remember someone saying "Well, it must have been something you did." Yeah. Right. Tell me what it is so I can scream it from the mountain tops and let everyone know what to avoid.

The bottom line is this: anyone can get breast cancer. Even men. In April of 1998, I painted this picture which is entitled "To Everyone Else, You are Someone Else." It is a title with a double meaning. My first intention was to indicate to all women, that the thought that "It's not going to happen to me, it is going to happen to someone else" is entirely incorrect because to EVERYONE else YOU are the someone else.

The majority of breast cancer diagnosis happens to women who don't have breast cancer in their families. It often just strikes out of the blue. I used to get angry at doctors who kept on warning women who had it in their families to be careful. Well, heck, we ALL have to be on guard because most of the cases are not hereditary and if they are, then those women have a little warning that they have to be careful. I had no clue. Getting cancer was the last thing on my mind.

The other aspect is that we are all something to others. Cancer touches many who are not directly related. Around the image in the center is all sorts of relationships...familial, as well as occupations, most of what I wrote are occupations typically occupied by women, but not necessarily so. Breast cancer can touch your mother, your hygienist, your teacher your....fill in the blank.

This particular painting was done for the Susan G. Komen Art for the Cure and won a prize in the New Britain Art for the Cure in 1998, I think it took curator's choice. It is not a comfortable image to look at....and yes, I took some design licenses....I put a second "arm rest" to make a cruciform figure, even though for a unilateral mastectomy you only have one. In addition, for me, I didn't have an axillary this time as I was having a mastectomy after a lumpectomy on the same side, but I got the idea from my experience. The greenish hair cap, the "donut" pillow forming a halo...all of that is what I had.

My daughter hates it. I love the color of the background....Alizarin Crimson which reminded me of the same color of CAF (the red is the Adriamycin). I don't mind that it is uncomfortable. It is a piece which is making a statement, and sometimes those pieces aren't pretty. Sometimes those pieces make you take action. At least I hope so.

Sometimes I think that that red of the Alizarin Crimson should indicate anger...anger that would make us all stamp out breast cancer and make sure that every women gets regular mammograms and takes care of themselves....and we need to take care of those who can't take care of themselves and help them through this journey which brings new discoveries....not all of them pleasant.

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