• Alison

The Chemo Creative

When I look at how my life has unfolded with the cancer and all the things that have been taken from me (looks, career, hair..), I've recently taken the time to stop and appreciate all the things that I’ve gained because of the cancer. As strange as that may sound, there has been many wonderful improvements to my life because of my diagnosis.

I’ve gained a deeper level of knowing what I want to do, all the things that I said I would do when I was younger, but never got around to doing for financial or self-sabotaging reasons. We all have those dreams we never fulfilled. Well, this is my year of ‘doing’, all those things that I said I’d do one day and never got around to. I may not have an actual timeline for departure, but I have a certain pressure to get things done. Instead of putting off until tomorrow - a tomorrow that may never come - I’m all about today.

I’ve always been an adventurous soul, I have never been a shrinking violet when it comes to experience, but for a outgoing and outwardly confident gal, I defiantly sabotaged my dreams in favour of taking the more sensible route in to corporate life. And I did succeed and have a great career for the at least 15 years before I got sick. I was ambitious and worked hard and was rewarded with promotions and titles for my efforts. But there was always a little ‘creative’ devil on my shoulder. I’ve always drawn, made and created things, but I’ve always equally regretted not going to art college when I was of the college age. I’ve spent my adult life secretly regretting it and filling this urge by making curtains, doing printing courses etc. But my illness has resurrected my creative urge and I’m finding a whole new lease to my life though my creativity, and this need within me to make, design and create in a way I’m definitely sure I never would have pursued if I hadn't got this time that my cancer has given me.

As I approach my “ Cancaversary”, four years since my original diagnosis, I think of many things: how am I still here? How my life has feckin changed so much and most of all how my life has changed too much.. in the most exciting ways. These days I’ve firmly decided to just “fuck it” we are living a Nike life; I am just “doing it” and true to this new mantra, I’ve dialed up my creative life. #chemocreative

I’m drawing, making and creating and finding it the most effective therapy or medicine I could find to nourish my heart and soul. One thing about going through all the medical treatments is that chemo, post chemo etc can feel like a never-ending, not/so-merry-go-round that has no beginning or end, and doing these creative projects gives me a sense of purpose that I always had with my career and life pre-cancer. It's something I’ve really struggled with during these past few years. My career was and still is a big part of who I am (was), and although I’ve worked during periods of my treatment, I have had to take a step back from day-to-day working so, for a gal like me, who really can’t sit around and do nothing, my creative projects have given me a purpose beyond just taking medicine to keep me alive.

I take about four days worth of steroids to keep my immune system right when I’m on my chemo ‘take away’, it’s actually a 48-hour chemo infusion, that I ‘wear’ after a day’s treatment in the hospital. The steroids are not that nice in so many ways, bloating and general level of ‘sketchyness’ as I experience them, but they do give me a lot of energy to do all sorts of things like at Christmas for example, I decorated the tree and made four natural green garlands for windows and doorways in the house all jacked up on my chemo pump! Hence, the emergence of the ‘chemo creative’!

Once I get over my sleepy chemo come down days, thinking about my projects and making very random notes during fits of sleep, it really gives me something to look forward to shake myself and get stuck in to whatever I’m working on. This week I restored a rather tired art deco style display cabinet that I ‘acquired’ from my brother, who was using it to store toy tractors (don’t even ask about that one). I have a corner in my kitchen and a few bits of crystal and general nick nacks that was crying out for a ‘piece’. So, when my brother asked if I wanted it, I knew I could do something interesting with it and give it a new life. Reduce, reuse, recycle and all that!

Sugar soap and sand paper was purchased, but a bit of time passed while I was thinking of colours etc. Now, I should also add, I do get very distracted with my projects and can easily start something and not finish it, wait six months and go back to it. An honourable mention to some bunting I cut to be made from a little Fia in my life when she was born, she’s now two and I only finished the bunting last week. I think she may even have moved on in her toddler style for the bunting. Her Mum laughed out loud when I told her the bunting was‘ready’!

Back to the cabinet, I decided on a dark, ink navy paint and on the back in the inside some opulent wallpaper. The paint was fine, but the paper proved more of a challenge, anything I ever like and I mean everything, is always expensive hence the only wallpapers I was loving for my cabinet makeover were coming in at the €200 per roll category. My champagne tastes did not meet my prosecco budget! I’m mad for the ‘house porn’ on Instagram and drool over interior designers and utterly perfect homes and follow quite a few Irish and international designers on the platform. I spotted some of my most lusted after wallpapers for sale on the Dust website, a fabulous site run by two Dublin designer gal pals. But I really couldn’t justify buying a whole roll, so in my most “ah sure feck it” of moods, I messaged the girls from Dust and asked if they have any off cut from their interior projects, and the lovely Sarah replied “yes”, she even sent me a couple of delicious options and after much serious deliberation I chose a divine paper with a black background and hand printed gold bumblebees pattern. They generously gave me at least three mtrs for €30, collected by my hubbie with a lot of eye rolling, as to my plans and again it did go unused for some months, so his eye rolls may have been justified!

This was the week for the ‘makeover’ and I dug out the previously purchased sugar soap, sandpaper, and found a pot of wood primer in the shed and we are off! I took a trip to my local paint shop and by a happy accident I met a very knowledgeable lady in the store who advised me on the paint finish, the colour was easy but my knowledge of ‘finishes’ is limited. Over three days, I washed, sanded, primed and painted the cabinet and then for the real finishing touch I placed the precious wallpaper on the back. This was the most nerve racking part of the whole job, having never pasted or put up wallpaper in my life, it really could have been a disaster. But disaster is was not, and even if I do say so myself, I’m very impressed with the finished product.

I’m on my chemo come down this week, so productivity might extend to a few sketching notes, but next week I’m planning on sourcing a bedside locker for my son’s room, so who only knows what he will get!

So this chemo creative is loving the re-connection with my artistic side, another one of the weirdly wonderful side effects of living in Cancerland! Just for a little giggle before I sign off, and back to what energy-inducing steroids can make someone like me do: today I made a roast chicken, various salads, potato wedges and a rhubarb crumble, hung three washes out on the line, changed three sets of bedsheets and wrote this blog post, so it’s yah for the steroids but I may take to the bed very soon!



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