Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dogs Days of Chemo

That's the phrase my mister has coined for my remaining weeks of chemo!  The long march of weekly infusions and mitigating issues as they arise from the side effects of having strange chemicals pumped into you!

There are 7 weeks left of this march and I've taken to marking off the calendar like a child anticipating the last days of school before summer.  Then I wonder at how long it will be before the last vestiges of chemicals will have quit my body so that I can get it back in shape?

I like the idea that the chemo shall end as the days get warmer so that the summer shall regrow in me new strength.  Plant me in the ground, sun and water me and see what kind of new form sprouts!  One that has no chemo or cancer,  just the scars to show that I've walked this way!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Blood

Weakness from chemo sucks! Not to put too fine a point on it. So off to make a withdrawal of some good rich red blood! Thanks so much blood bank and the kind nurses at the short stay floor of Providence Hospital last night.

Before I got a fill up I spent days not even thinking a wit about art. Strangely enough after feeling the strength of the transfusion I started art cathartinng like mad realizing that I had been a bit asleep. It was nice to wake up!

So off and running again with images to imagine and to paint as strength permits. Only two more heavy days in the last two rotations and 5 more light chemo days. Slowly I turn, step by step!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Since my splendid day I've not been as buoyant as I would like. It's the damndable thing of chemo treatments that it makes you weak, sometimes days after treatments. A lot of it has to do with hydration issues. I look forward to this week's chemo where I'll be re-inflated! And owing to the fact the this week and next week's chemo will be shorter in length I'm hopeful to get back to the drawing board, literally!

During these last few days of weighing down the couch I'm realizing that there is an issue that's come with cancer that I hadn't quite realised that has nothing to do with charts and IV's. It's more behavioural in nature. Where people put the illness before your identity. There's an assumption about how you feel or what you're going through or what you need without being consulted or considered. I do know that everyone means well but I must assure everyone that I am still myself. I may not ultimately be the same Kate that I was before cancer, but I strongly think that I will be a more marvelous Kate after chemo. In fact I like to say that I don't have cancer, I have chemo. It's chemo that is having it's way with me. Oh, by the way, my CA-125 is currently 20!

So while I'm weak and haven't even though of artwork or sketching, I know it all waits for me not far away. Look at me and I'll be happy to reassure you of my intent and resolve!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Splendid day

Yesterday was indeed THE first most splendid day I've had since starting chemo treatments!  Yes, I'm still weak and fight to stay hydrated but it felt good to be physical in my body working outside on a grand spring day.  The mission: move the ugly little metal shed from the yard to behind the studio.  The participants: my mister on his new riding mower and our most resourceful neighbor, Darlene and myself as dirt digger and cheering section.

We managed to move the shed by using skids and pry bars and sliding the thing along.  It was a wonderful achievement.  In its place there will be a row of hops for contributing ingrdients to the local pub's IPA brew!  Our favourite!

In addition to moving the shed we planted 3 new trees.  One oak and two red buds thanks again to our neighbor, Darlene and her sapling collecting!  One of these years we won't be looking out onto a massive flat yard but on a park-like setting full of trees and wonderful native plantings!  It's all 'art', just in giant 3D scale!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chemo Day

I'm sure the thought of getting chemo for most people would sound like a frighteningly scary proposition. It is, at the beginning for the uninitiated, but I'm here to tell you that it's not as bad as you might think. At first it's a strange world of IV leads, beeping monitors with bags of fluids on wheely stands. You wonder what kind of poison is going through your veins and why all the liquid in the bags is colorless? Where's the happy juice in pretty Colours?
The chart of side effects is quite maudlin. "Are you experiencing vomiting, nausea, dizziness" . . . and a whole list of things that sound unpleasant. Where are the side effects for possibly giving you a rosier glow without makeup, a strange new penchant for wearing polka dots, suddenly having green fingers for growing plants well, or being able to read minds! They need to invent side effects far more interesting!

As cancer is so prevalent in our world I guess before I got started in this part time job of treatments I thought it would be the most sophisticated, high tech thing, but in actuality it's rather barbaric. Because we are biological creature there isn't the shiny machine with complicated algorithmic equations making working models of outcomes ministering to our individual diseases. It's more like being a Hobbit! You stick out your arm or chest, wherever there's a vein or port and they administer something liken to colorless tree sap to kill any cell that's even thinking about cancer!

You actually do get used to chemo in some ways. You learn to adapt and to mitigate little annoyances. You learn all sorts of blood test monitoring numbers so that your conversant in hemoglobid and albumen. You ignore stupid things that people say to you and silly questionnaires that want to know if you still feel like a women without all your reproductive bits. Of course I do, I've just been streamlined! Now, don't Hobbits eat second breakfast!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Woke up this morning with another idea in my head for a painting.  One that encorporates a sketch I did last year.  People often ask me what my collages and paintings are about and honestly, I don't know what to tell them most of the time.  Sometimes after I make an image collage or painting it tells me what it means, but mostly, I just like putting different imagery together in an interesting way.  Well, at least interesting to me.  Rather like something familiar but yet, not.  Its a challenge, much like finding the right word to use when you're writing a letter.  I love words for they are pictures in our brains after all!

In this idea I rather like the concept of dreaming about a stand of trees.  Perhaps these trees sway in the breeze.  They are substantial and strong, growing straight up but flexible.   Perhaps they represent growth and knowledge.  The interpretation can be of our own making.   Or you could just say its all rather silly to have a stand of trees growing out of one's head, making a good case for someone with a migraine!

I choose poetic license every time!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Way finding

I used to do a fair bit of hiking and camping when I was single. There was always a direction and destination to these wonderful outings by myself or with friends. Wayfinding wasn't difficult by following a well marked path, or map or the sun in it's trajectory. Most of the time I didn't use a compass, but I had one all the same because having one was cool. I liked to imagine that I could find my way if I needed to.

It occurs to me now that I really do need a new direction and destination. I've long since lost the compass I used to have and having been idle from a working destination for months now has created a feeling of limbo. Granted my new job is to be busy with chemo but I need more carrot and stick than that. I don't want that job to be the thing that consumes my brain. In fact you don't need a brain to be present for treatment, just patience.

Today I was given guidance and direction, a compass, if you will, on my life. And although I haven't a clue as to what I shall make or do within the next year, I was given such positive reenforcement that my way finding shall be more a matter of acting on my own desires and not out of my doubts and fears.

I'll firmly affix the stick and the carrot bending out over my nose in front of me and take this new guidance as my invisible compass and blaze a new unapologetic trail to . . .

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Years and years and years ago, back in my rock and roll youth I sang for a living. Not many people know this. I chased the dream of performing and recording for many years before turning to art making. I knew how to sing but I didn't know how to surround myself with people that had my best interest at heart! Today I'm happy to be a legend in my lounge!
I bring this up because I've met, but never met a jazz singer that has helped me so much in the early stages of coping with cancer treatments, Elaine Greenburg! She's been cancer free for many years but is an advocate for helping other woman at various stages along their journey with cancer. We've talked about being artists with cancer and the ways in which you find to cope with issues as they crop up. Most noteably for how to cope with chemo or radiation therapies.

The women Elaine introduced me to to talk to or exchange emails were so helpful to me. They were so willing to honestly tell me how it was for them in their cancer. I'm so grateful to them for their advice, tricks and tips of how to deal with everything from hair loss to how to eat when you don't want to. I hope I can be of service to others as they have been to me.

Now that I've got my legs under me and dealing with cancer treatment is really just my part-time job I'm happy to be able to pass along a wonderful event, JAZZALOT! Elaine will be singing and there will be other performers as well. I encourage all to this event!
To see this more clearly, cheque out the link on my FB page!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

awake way too early

Up way too early this morning, or in other words at "sparrow fart"! . . . mind whizzing with ideas for paintings!  These might seem a bit cryptic, but its part of my process for sticking images together.  In paint they will all have a different sort of energy.  As photo collages they are references to the idea.  Some may translate to paint, others attempted and abandoned.  I never know till I go through the work what will be.  That's the special joy and challenge of it all. 


 It will also have alot to do with my patience as well.  Sometimes before I get to render an idea in paint I've already moved on to another, newer idea.  My studio is filled with references for painting ideas that never got made.  There's enough there to keep me occupied indefinitely!  That's a good problem to have!

 In "bridge" I'm looking at myself in repose.  Painted, the figure shall become a green mountain in the form of a female laying down.  It also might have something to do with being a wee bit homesick for the UK!

"Cells" is just playing with shapes and colours of red berries on trees and the image of cancer cells.  The inside and outside of nature.

"Cell Nerves" is also a play on cells and how they are shaped.  I never knew that some have the same feeling as banyan trees.

"Waterfall" is an image from a walk in Onich, Scotland in 2005.  The sketch is recent and I thought if I could put it in the stream and make it a spectre it might read nicely.  Experimentation to come!  Yet it has the feeling I'm looking for.
cell nerves


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Couch scribbler

Today was chemo day.  It rather took the starch out of me today.  I'm never sure if its the drugs to help me tolerate the chemicals or the chemicals themselves.  Suppose they're all chemicals one way or the other.  Just as plants and weeds are a matter of opinion.

When I'm feeling not quite strong enough, as if I'm made of paper (quite a new experience) I usually become a couch weight, sleeping or watching brain numbing tellie as distractions. 

Today when I awoke from an afternoon long sleep I created some imagery as an ode to Joan Miro.  I had read an article in the London Guardian about him while at chemo that was very powerful and moving.  About how he tried to annialate art in his way.  How he tried to escape convention.  His methods were line and shape, very graphic but full of symbology, colour and movement.

It is not my intention to copy him but to try and work in the same manner as he.  It is an experiment of my own making with a nod to his influence.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Strengths & weaknesses

Everyday I aim for the studio to get involved in whatever new idea or image that's waiting for me on the easel.  Everyday I procrastinate something fierce without knowing why.  I supppose it has to do with getting ready in some slow dance I do with myself.  It's silly really, because once you start puttering in your workspace it all just comes together and your off.  Then you wonder why it took you so long to start? 

This weekend, however it was impossible to get into the studio!  Sunday's summer tempratures were so amazing that sleeping on the grass in the warm sun was a necessity.  If  I were strong enough I would have ridden my new bike or taken an easel to some prime spot for some en plein air painting.  But who's that ambitious?  Not me.  I'd rather drape myself on a chair outside and marvel at being "outside."

In the evening when you have to come inside like a reluctant child, all red faced from too much sun, and wondering if my bald head got scalded, then the scribble book comes out while flopping in the lounge, tellie on.  Then the invention starts.  The theme comes without thought, "strength and weaknesses" . . . some bodies look strong, some not.  Bodies all together but yet so separate in uniqueness.  This might be a good idea for a painting!

Friday, April 8, 2011

computer collaging

When not slinging paint in the studio or scribbling on paper I like to put images together from photos I've taken or absconded off the net.  I got up way too early this morning so have been having a bash at the computer making collage images.

The nest one is actually my own hair that I worried into a nest as it fell out after first 'round chemo.  I saved it because I was so intriqued by the fact that it was my hair, in my hand and not on my head. It's all art to me!

The other imagery has to do with the train whistle I can hear just a short distance away from our house.  I photo'd the rails at the level crossing.  It brings me back to the steam trains that used to run in England.  In some place they still do!  It's fairly straight forward imagery.  Keep thinking it should have more too it, but can't think what.  When making images like this its all about impulse!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

after chemo catharsis

pendulum time
the watches have no hands


I have this little sketchbook that was given me by an artgroup member.  We're to use it to create ideas for a themed painting we'll all work on throughout this year, with a common theme.  The theme is "redemption".  When I don't feel like slinging paint or working in the studio I scribble in this little book while watching tellie.  I make things up, whatever comes into my head.  So, of course since I have this new part-time job of chemo, labs and doctor visits it stands to reason that alot of what will automatically come out of me is related to my "situation".  Some of it is just nervous energy.  Last night's bout probably a reaction to being on a high still from the steroids they give you in chemo.  Thery're silly, possibly ideas for future paintings, but mostly just a postcard of what dribbles out of me brain!
great stag rescue

cancer alien


Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Fever

Always at this time of year "spring fever" hits before the tempreture rises.  I'm restless to want to ride my new bicycle and take a walk outside in mild weather.  But not yet!  It has to rain and storm and change in so many ways before we can go outside and play. 
   The other evening it was crowded at the pub, lots of folks talking of the coming of spring, making plans for the coming good weather we all expect.  The barman asked my husband if my cancer would change me?  It was such an innocent question yet so profound.  How could it not change me, like a season.  Like waiting for the season of spring to burst out.
   My cancer season has already affected me, but I think in the long run it will be just a chapter in a book and not the whole story of my life.  How I would hate to be always related to as, "Kate with Cancer", as if I had a new name.  While I'm in this cancer season called "chemotherapy" I stubbornly stick to my own idea of how I am.
  The outward sign of losing one's hair is a marker to others but its a change that will pass.  It doesn't bother me as much as it is a beacon to others announcing my "condition".   Oddly enough, cancer is so pervasive in our culture that there really is no need to explain.
   So while I work in the studio and move buckets and pails around to try and come up with some new paintings I feel good to be in my body, even weak, even thinner.  For I know beyond all doubt that once this season of chemotherapy ends I will have the sweet summer season to get stronger with the sun on my body and let my hair grow until I'm Rapunzel!  Ha Ha!