At the end of December 2017, I had a seizure and found out that I have a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. In mid January, I will be having it removed and taking a break from all teaching, demonstrating and commercial studio work so that I can focus on my recovery. Naturally, my family and I are stressed out and nervous for the coming months, but we believe I will fully recover and return to prior interests and activities in due time. For those of you who are inclined, your prayers are much appreciated.
As I have grappled with this news in the past week, a lot of thought has centered on what it means to be an artist as it is not only my vocation, it is a key part of my identity. What happens if this surgery changes me? What if parts of this are quite difficult to process or navigate? Google can be your friend and your enemy during times like this. One thing that has brought me comfort has been finding other creative types with similar issues who have shared their journey of recovery on the internet. Hope is not to be trifled with.
So, with that example in mind, I have decided to use the coming months to shift my focus to my path to wellness and to share it on my blog. My hope is that it gives my friends, family, and clients a snapshot of my recovery as well as potentially be a place that google will lead others who are dealing with heavy news and that it will give them hope as well.
Since I can be enormously persistent (stubborn) when I choose to be, I have decided I need to do this on my own terms. I feel like this is a really neat opportunity to share what happens when you take a skilled artist and then operate on their brain. Seriously, you don't get much better blogging material than that. It feels like the ultimate science/art experiment. What works? Will my skills be different? What will I lose? What will I gain? Will my palette change? My subject? Will I still be an artist? I plan to write and share my sketchbook journal, plus whatever art I feel like trying.
It is really important to me that I use this experimental time to be honest about what this has done to my brain and my creative spirit. I'm not going to lie, I already feel quite vulnerable. In the past week, making words fit together (which I love doing) has been stilted and clumsy. I really have to think about spelling and how things fit together in a sentence. Emails and text messages have been slow because I need to read and reread them to make sure they make sense. It takes a little longer to figure out what the problem is. I'm not sure if this is from the seizure, the medication, or the actual brain tumor. I suspect there will be a lot of this frustration in the coming weeks. I also know how cathartic it is to acknowledge that sort of thing, so I think being open will be good for me.
I think it is too easy for artists (myself included) to use platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to present this effortless picture of great art and self promotion. Nobody likes showing the failed experiments or talking about work that you make that is awkward or doesn't sell. No one likes admitting that they are a novice at a new art form until the work is pretty and commercially available. It's easy to throw in words about how privileged and honoured you are to be included in something, or use hashtags like #blessed and #lovinglife. The downside to that approach is it takes hard work and grit out of the picture and makes it look like you won the "art lottery" instead of putting in countless hours being mediocre in order to become skilled. In the coming months, I suspect I am going to work hard and make some bad art. I think it is important to share it with you.
Here are some random things I want to put out there for anyone reading this:
- To everyone who has already sent me a message of encouragement, offer of prayer or practical help. Thank you. I will likely get back to you in the coming week if I haven't already. If I don't, I'm blaming it on my brain issues. They are real and I've dropped a few threads already.
- If you are just learning about this via Social Media and I should have contacted you directly, I deeply apologize - please extend grace and friendship. Having lots of friends and family is a good problem to have, but I know I've missed a few of you! Again, I blame the clumsy brain.
- I work with amazing organizations and I just want to thank everyone who I've had to send the "I need to withdraw from ____" email to in the past few days. You have all responded with such compassion and understanding. Thank you for that. It's been a humbling week and knowing that I can get back in touch and resume our plans when I am better has been a life line.
- For anyone who received a cancellation notice for a class you've signed up for, I am so sorry. I hope you will keep checking here for my courses to be rescheduled so we can do our class at a later date. If you want a recommendation for an alternate, contact me or the organization you booked with for some other classes in the meantime. You need to keep those fires fueled in your own creative journey!
- For any of my collaborators, students or artist friends, it would mean the world to me if you sent me updates of what you are working on. You inspire me and motivate me and I know I will live vicariously through you in the coming weeks. Talking shop absolutely puts wind in my sails.
- If you are in the same boat of needing to recover or you have recovered and somehow you found my blog, contact me. One thing I'm not sure I want to hear is people's horrible experiences. You know what I'm talking about... it starts with sentences like "oh, my cousin Edna's sister-in-law had something like that and it was AWFUL...." You can keep those locked up until after I'm better. I love stuff where we are mutually positive, honest and encouraging though.
A few people have asked how they can help.
- If you know our family personally and you want to pitch in, shoot me or my husband and email or text and we can take it from there. We do have a few offers of day to day help and some meals but lots of people doing a tiny bit shares the load easily. I have the easy part of recovery, I really want to keep my husband and kids from feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. They have heated up enough frozen pizza in the past week already.
- For anyone else, we are not planning to set up a gofundme account or anything like that. However, I will be honest that as an independent artist who makes her living from the fruits of her labors... the next few months are going to be tight. My husband carries the bulk of the finances thank goodness but I will not have the luxury of sick leave. If you have suggestions, advice on Canadian/Alberta/Calgary or Cochrane resources I can access for advice or help at this time, please contact me.
- You can still find my art at Bluerock Gallery, Leighton Centre and Muk Luk Magpies - if you've had your eye on a piece, this would be a helpful time to buy it. I do have a little work available at home but in all this craziness, it might be hard for me to get it shipped. Booking spots in workshops when I return will also be helpful, so keep checking back as well.
- Most importantly, your well wishes and prayers have been treasured and if you could keep me and my family in your thoughts in the coming weeks, that would be the greatest way you could help.
Anyways, I plan to blog and if my brain works correctly, I'll try to remember to file all the posts related to my recovery under "Meningioma" should I have a spell where I can't do it myself, I'll make sure my husband can do it on my behalf. Filling out my contact form means it gets sent directly to my email, which I hope to check often. Thanks!
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.