Michele

My cancer journey has taught me so much, about myself and about the world around me. But mainly about the things that most of us are never taught about, and don't feel we can talk about openly. I know this may seem hard to understand for some, who find it too painful and the only way to cope is to shut down. That is how most of us face the initial traumatic shock of discovering you have a life threatening disease like cancer. I was scared, terrified, for my life, I have never come closer to death. This is my soul painting, I chose a horse because I see it as a symbol of strength, beauty and freedom, running wild through the incredible landscapes of our lives. The blue represents the magic, the anima within all of us, life. The head and tail turn inward, searching and feeling within. Having cancer forced me to face up to my mortality and accepting the darker side of life. This in turn, in contrast so to speak, has high-lighted the more precious aspects of life to me, things maybe I took for granted and did not value as much as I do now, through my journey of illness. All the symbols within the horse represent these different aspects of life, and death, feelings wonderful and difficult, and things personally important to me.

The cycle of life is made up of day and night, light and dark, and it is this, together, which I have learnt is the essence of our being, so the first symbols I painted were the sun and moon; they also represent happiness and my dreams respectively. Speaking of dreams and wishing upon a star, is hope. Fire is the spark of life, the burning light within us all, and flames of passion. The passion of my life is painting and colour, for which I need these tools of the trade. The book is knowledge and poetry, and everything I have learnt. As we get older, perhaps there is a feeling that we should act in a certain 'adult' way, and even though, yes, there are certain responsibilities that we have to learn to accept and act upon, I think we must never forget the 'child' in us, the natural, the sensitive and the playful. My guardian angel is always looking over me, holding my hand and being my guide. The boat is my vessel, my instrument of travel over the waters of life, the river that runs from the source out to the open sea. The spiral too, symbolises the eternal pattern of life.

The tree represents growth, that sprouts from a small seed, and bears the fruits. I did not intend for the snake to be associated with the evils of temptation, as with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, but with the slippery, slimy, sneaky way the bad things in life, like cancer, creep up on you. I think it's more to do with the game of snakes and ladders, but I detest snakes all the same. The menacing shears cut away the useless and shape the cloth but the blackness is loss. The crown of thorns, where blood has been shed, is pain and suffering, both physical and emotional. The cross, another religious icon, perhaps to do with my Catholic upbringing, is about the spiritual, and death. The eye is said to be the window to the soul, the tears show sorrow and sadness. I think the most important feeling of all is that of the heart, love and compassion. No other feeling has made me feel so good as the love I feel for others, and the love I have been showered in. And the key is what we are all searching for, to unravel the mysteries of life, and unlock each of the doors to each of the rooms that we walk through. Illness has been a huge part of my life, and I have come through it, but this must not diminish how hard it has been for me and everyone around me. But I have learnt a new language, that can talk of pain and loss and even death, and yet who would have thought it possible to find love, compassion and even joy in those moments too...only those who understand and have learnt the same language. The bird sings it's own song, both happy and sad for the whole world to hear.