I was 14 when my mother died after a short battle with cancer (writes Chris Thomas, from Melbourne, for the consumerwatchfoundation.com)
She had a skin cancer removed from her leg when I was around 9 or 10 but that was just a single surgery and there was no other ongoing treatment.
It was when I was 14 that we were told that mum had not long to live. And so it proved to be.
I can’t remember how long it was after her death that I was made aware of an art contest that was being run by the cancer council.
I never actually entered but did try and think of an idea for it.
I have, over the 34 years since her death, often had thoughts about something to do, in an artistic way, to represent the fight against this nasty disease.
Fast forward from 1984 to 2013 and life brings cancer well into the forefront of my mind. That was when Lyn was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.
This is not the type of lung cancer you get from smoking. This is the everyday garden variety of lung cancer that any of us can get just from breathing the toxic air that we have created!
Anyway I digress. It was not as though my life had been untouched by cancer between 1984 and 2013. I had been touched by a grandmother having skin cancers removed, an aunt having breast cancer, a mother-in-law having skin cancers removed, two sisters in law having breast cancer, one not quite sister-in-law losing a battle with breast cancer, an uncle losing a fight with throat cancer I think, a friend’s child having a battle with a cancer I don’t know what type …
Those are just the ones that come to mind before our lives changed.
The initial cancer was not diagnosed until after they had taken out half of Lyn’s left lung. It was just a mass and they couldn’t work out what it was.
Before surgery they were sure it wasn’t cancer as she had no other signs to point in that direction.
Anyway it turned out to be cancer but they were confident that they got all from the lung … but they saw a small amount in a lymph node – so off to chemo!
That stuff is so painful. Lyn suffered so much.
Made it through though and I was again thinking about how to maybe do something that could be a fundraising kind of thing.
I had ideas about trying to represent all the different cancer cells as some sort of “amoeba” type of blob that would have all sorts of people fighting them, or just on their own as a sort of wanted poster or a “know your enemy” kind of thing.
A little bit “Starship Troopers” in a way.
Anyway, these ideas got as far as a few sketches and never moved on.
Our life moved on though, with the passing of each set of tests giving “all clears” – we were starting to hope that we were going to be in the “best case” basket.
We’d lucked into it being found soon enough that Lyn could be looking at much longer than the “five year window” that is general extended life expectancy with lung cancer. Only about 1% of people with lung cancer survive five years.
Turned out not to be.
Lyn, however, had decided, after an all-clear in December 2013, that 2014 would be a year of doing stuff!
While I was on leave from work over the Christmas period she convinced me of this.
So, we booked a holiday for us and the youngest two children to go and “do the theme parks” over the Labor Day long weekend.
Then we were out at the shops and she walked me past one of the travel agents and convinced me to go in “just to have a look”.
It was a plan! We walked out of there having booked a Christmas and New Year cruise for the whole family! We sure were doing stuff!
Anyway, in January 2015, one day after returning home from our cruise and the day before I was to return to work for the year Lyn collapsed on the bathroom floor with her right arm and her head and neck shaking violently…
Off to hospital we go and a scan shows three lesions in her brain.
Move to Moorabbin hospital and after a more detailed scan we are told that without treatment Lyn would have three to four months and with treatment twelve months.
Within two weeks she was having brain surgery to remove one tumour and within five weeks she was having her first course of radiotherapy.
During this time we realised that we would have to move as we were living in a two storey house and we both knew that Lyn was not going to be able to “do the stairs” to get to the bedroom.
A shift in house and the thoughts of “I am choosing a house for my wife to die in” helped to focus my mind once again on the idea of doing something towards fundraising for cancer research.
I had been putting photos on Redbubble since the middle of 2014 and had been very happy with the items that I had ordered for myself just to see what they were like.
This is where the “Fight Cancer” images came into being.
In the lead up to Daffodil Day 2015 I got the brain wave to “do the boxing glove images”. I went out an purchased the gloves and then went around trying to find some daffodil’s that I could use to tie the images into the whole “daffodil day” thing. You would think it would be easy to find daffodil’s around daffodil day right…. Wrong!
Anyway I did eventually find a bunch and spent an afternoon taking images with the boxing gloves. I also took a couple of images of Lyn wearing the gloves and holding a daffodil as I had the idea for doing some portraits of actual cancer fighters.
People currently fighting, those who are in remission and the medical and support personnel who help the fighters and their family and friends. That idea is still there but not moved on apart from the couple of shots of Lyn that I am sure she would hate… I may still pursue that idea in time.
So, anyway daffodil day had passed by the time I had actually managed to take the images and I thought, okay, well next year I will make them ready and put them up on Redbubble etc etc etc.
So two more daffodil days go past and each year I looked at and thought about how I really should get them finished and put them up.
Lyn liked the couple of images that I had shown her, but ever the procrastinator, I just never quite got around to “finishing” the images. I would tool around trying to come up with some sort of additional logo or wording to put onto the images.
Tied myself up in knots trying to think of things to add to them rather than just letting the images do the talking by themselves.
So three years kind of “wasted” – or maybe not I don’t know.
What I do know is that as life after Lyn’s death in May of this year (just before her 52nd birthday) has stuttered along…
But it did finally give me the kick up the bum to just get the images out there.
A week of revisiting the images and trying to pick the ones that looked and felt the best to me has been both tough and rewarding.
I didn’t really expect the response that I have had. I hoped that a few people might see my post and share it. I hoped that maybe a few people other than myself would purchase something and I could feel a little bit of pride in trying.
I mean I am no different to so many people out in the world who have this crap happen to them. Yes I might feel quite aggrieved that not only did I lose my mother to this horrible thing but now my children also lose their mother and I my wife, my love. Lots of others go through all this so I see, and saw, no reason to think that what I put on facebook would be anything but a blip in cyberspace.
Well I guess I just ain’t that clever after-all!
Thank you for your support.
The link to my Redbubble page : www.redbubble.com/people/cmthomas