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|"First I am a photographer. Periodically, I am a
cancer patient." These are the opening lines of my book. Following surgery for uterine cancer, my second primary cancer,
chemotherapy was necessary to reduce the possibility of a recurrence. I learned that this time, I would lose my hair. As a working artist, I decided to record the changes that
occurred as a series of photographic self-portraits.
The Gathering of Women
I attended a women's photography workshop just after finishing my chemotherapy, long before any hair had returned. With some trepidation, I showed the "hair" photographs from the series-in-progress at a critique session. The consensus was that a book describing my experiences, using the photographs as a starting point, would be helpful to others facing chemotherapy.
Too Many Patients
Every year 2,500 new cancer patients arrive at the Hartford Hospital and the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center where I had my treatment. That center is one of ten or more within the small state of Connecticut where I live. Too many cancer patients will experience baldness as I did -- baldness is one of the most feared side-effects of chemotherapy.
The emphasis in my story is on the importance of a positive attitude and a reliance on self-motivation, rather than allowing self-pity to take over. What I had begun as a way of coping became, to my surprise, a record of a journey.
Life Goes On
I hope the self-portraits and the images of my world during the treatment will help others. Visual documentation of the effects of chemotherapy is rarely available to patients. My photographs address the subject of hair loss and baldness in an open, matter-of-fact manner. Patients, family and friends see, as they view the soft, mostly black and white infrared images, that "life goes on" and gather ideas o how to make "life" work for them.
had life on my mind. That was my important focus," is a key sentence in
my book and in my life.
Become a Volunteer
After my treatment for rectal cancer in 1988, I began to serve as a volunteer for the Patient Services, Education and Prevention, and CanSurmount groups at the American Cancer Society and as a visitor for the United Ostomy Association. My chemo then did not cause baldness, so as I talked with cancer patients, we discussed other issues.
With my second cancer, documenting my baldness and recovery was important to me. I was happy to share my experiences as a way to help others, as I had helped myself. This book is not just another "Cancer Story". It is a record of an extremely difficult time, commonly experienced by cancer patients around the world. Patients, as well as their family and friends, and anyone touched by cancer, would find this and important and helpful book.