Sally

This tree symbolises me because I can go from one extreme to the other. Having cancer put me in touch with these possibilities. The left-hand side, very importantly, is not rooted. Its roots have dried up, so that side is dying. The other side is living; the trunk green, alive growing leaves. The blue calm, is the ideal end result, peace, out of which comes creativity. The cats symbolise different emotions. One is rather sinister and is the dark depressed side. It's important for me to be in touch with this. When I am very miserable, very negative, it feels like I'm at the top of a very steep slope. If I allowed myself to fall it would be terminal cancer. But I can also pull myself back to the other side. The trusting cat rolls onto its back, waving its paws for joy and wanting its tummy tickled. It is a symbol of joy, of being alive and free, and wanting to communicate, which is sometimes me. The cat, with its red claws out, and the black circle, surrounded by the spiky rail, symbolise anger, which is destructive.

I painted a sun because I feel that anger can also be very creative, and it's important to find a way of expressing anger. If I keep it in I can feel it poisoning me inside. When I was diagnosed, my first emotion was anger at the doctors who took 9 months to find out it was cancer. My cancer started as a huge lump on the instep of my left foot. After I was diagnosed, all they offered me was amputation. I always refused because my gut feeling was that my foot and my leg would be healthy, once the tumour was removed. I wasn't having my leg cut, to become disabled. I struggled with the doctors over this. Mutilating surgery had been talked about as another way. An orthopedic surgeon said, what I'd be left with, wouldn't be acceptable as a foot. So I objected, and I've had thirteen years with two working legs. I might have had thirteen years of awful problems, if I'd had an amputation. One 'expert' told me I wouldn't know any difference if I had my foot amputated! It was scary, to have someone who had trained for years, telling me that I'd made a very unwise decision. So far, I've been justified. I don't know what will happen in the future, there are no guarantees, but I'm very glad I made that decision. I was also very lucky because I found a professor who had researched into sarcomas, and discovered it was possible to treat some of them with radiotherapy, which I had twice.

When I went to the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, one of the doctors suggested thinking of a message of surviving. To have my foot firmly placed on the ground meant I was to be on the earth longer. I thought a lot about this foot and I became very fond of it. The cancer helped me to look at that foot, and in fact I talked to it a lot. At first I was very disappointed, I felt very betrayed by this part of my body that had been quietly, deviously growing this horrible thing. The cancer linked me with my body and made me realise that I have to pay attention and not ignore what my body tells me. I believe that my cancer reveals a psychological connection and it is necessary for me to look into my self and to understand and alter that connection. I had to 'put my best foot forward', and I began to notice that I often did put my left foot forward. I had to keep moving on, if I didn't I might stop altogether. I've been in remission now for 5 years. I cannot believe it. Where once the tumours were, there are tiny little scars. Most of them I can't see now but I want to remind myself of the tumours. The doctors never told me that I had been right, they would never do that. My message is, to go
with your gut feeling if you possibly can. I resisted the advice to have amputation, because I felt that was wrong for me. The medical profession do help us and I have met some very good doctors, but don't be overawed by medical might. If you want a second opinion, if you are not clear about what's been said, ask, get another appointment, see another doctor. Carry on until youÕve got all the information you need or you've got the outcome you want. Don't stop, do't be put off. It may be difficult, but you'll eventually find some support. You will get what you want in the end.