I felt like there was always something I had to do, something I was moving forward towards, always thinking about the next thing, so when I embarked on my career as a teacher, just over 10 years ago, I was comforted by the stability it gave me, allowing me to harness my love of Art without the risk, I could inspire others and have a creative outlet.
Teaching is a career that is all-encompassing, a vocation… it felt like it was a career that was made for me,…someone who subjected her little sister to ‘Art lessons’ when we were growing up. (note: she’s now a scientist!)
Loving teaching and taking on more and more responsibility as the years went on I realised I could use my creativity to change things, to lead a team and work towards a vision but as I progressed in my career I also noticed I made less and less art until, eventually, I was making no art at all.
A few years later I started to become unwell, I was working and sleeping trying to keep myself as healthy as possible to avoid the continuous illnesses, but it made no difference. In October 2016 after getting admitted to hospital I discovered that I had a rare immune disorder called CVID that I had, quite possibly, been living with my whole life, Two weeks later I received a cancer diagnosis- Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
My world turned upside down, I found sanctuary in my work… longing to be productive, to contribute in some way, I guess to hold on to some sort of normality. With the treatments progressing I was unable to keep going into work so I started to focus my attention on other things. When having chemotherapy, I found the side effects went in cycles, there was always a period of time, about two weeks. In which I felt well enough to spend time with family and plan things- I saw it as making positive memories.
I could pause and think during this time, I felt at ease, joyful, happy, like I had no stress which seems absolutely crazy in the midst of all of the turmoil. I was, of course, scared, I was worried about my future but it wasn’t all of the time. I took comfort in the fact that I was ‘in action’ and doing something to fix it.
In those moments when I was spending time with family, just doing ordinary things like listening to music with my husband I could feel a deep joy in the centre of my tummy rising up through my body and I realised that is what life is all about- it’s about these moments.
After having a stem cell transplant, I started to think about going back to work. One thing was clear to me, I wanted to maintain that feeling of joy, that idea that every single day is so very special.
Back at work, I thought that things would just fit back together, but it wasn’t quite like that. I was different, I thought about what I really wanted. I think I went back in time… to a time where things were so simple, where I knew that I just needed to create so I started making art again. I am carving out a life as an artist and a teacher, each aspect complementing the other allowing me to be more energetic, creative and joyful, inspired and excited about my students work as well as my own creations leaving me much more fulfilled.
Having a cancer diagnosis is terrifying and I hated what it did to my family and friends but the main point of sharing this post is that it made me stop and pause… think about what truly brings me joy to my core, it redirected me and it is quite possibly the only reason that I am here creating art and writing this blog…