Celia

It is interesting looking back at the picture now because to me it looks very clearly like a fish bowl, with weeds coming out of the top and this fish down at the bottom. That wasn't my intention at all. If I was going to analyse it, I would say, is that me? Was I the fish trapped in the corner, and unable to get to the top? And were all these weeds the things I had to fight through? When I started I was just trying to experiment with some sort of shape, so it's fascinating to me to see how it developed. I only put the fish in at the last minute because I felt I had to put something else in there, something animate. I suppose that's what painting is all about; it was not intentional, then it says something to you. I can relate it to my experience because when I learnt I had cancer I thought my life had been taken over. I thought, my life is not my own any more. I just have to submit to this treatment and it will finish when they say it will finish.

It seemed to me there was no choice about that really. I knew I could say no but I didn't want to, I thought it was a lifeline. There were times I couldn't see beyond it. I remember asking the doctors how long I would be on chemo and they said six months, I thought how will I get through six months. Then there was that tremendous sense at the end of
the treatment: I've got my life back. I can relate to being at the bottom of something and wondering are you going to come up again? I didn't know the outcome until after surgery. I didn't know what they were going to say to me. You go through all that trial and you just don't know if you'll survive. You think, should I feel ecstatic that they have removed this tumour but I didn't feel ecstatic until I got the result. I did feel tremendously trapped and there was this very strong feeling of my life being taken over. I thought that was going to be the end of it, and well I actually made a decision that I was going to swim. That wasn't easy, it wasn't easy to do.

There are moments when I'm positive and other times when I get very emotional, upset and distressed. Those moments still come and go. That's part of it as well; it's not good or bad, it's natural. Other people can be quite terrified of losing you. They have to try to keep you positive, because seeing you being negative brings to the surface their fears about whether you are going to survive. My sister told me that her oldest son said to her last year, 'you know aunty is not going to make it'. I asked why he had said that and my sister replied, "because he thought you weren't being positive". When well-known people are described in the newspapers as losing the battle, it is as if it's their fault that they die. Somehow my nephew had come to believe that recovery was dependent on being positive. I wasn't doing the right thing so I wasn't going to make it - I felt very angry really. The media describe illness as a battle, the winning and losing of. I've come to a very different concept. I'm starting to feel that actually you can have healing in death as well. Dying is not always losing because in fact we're all going to die anyway, and it may be of cancer or maybe something else.