Sue

Both of these paintings have my sanctuary in them, the water, the palm trees and the sun. It reflects the positivity overpowering the negativity. The blackness is still in there - in one I was trying to get out of that tunnel. I kept on climbing up and getting kicked back down again, and you climb a little bit more and look very cautiously and come out a bit more. Let me out - no more blood and knives. After the third or fourth operation I didn't want to be cut open any more. Six in three years, the last in March. The first one was the major one, the fifth they took out a few more little ones here and there, little tiny lumps. They said they were superficial ones, but they're there, whether they are superficial or not. That was my lop sided face. (right) The jaggedness of the jaw: it was in the salivary gland and because it was so large they had to cut the jawbone to get to it, and of course I needed radiotherapy.

The surgeon left it a year before rebuilding; the bone graft was done this year, which was brilliant. I hated looking in a mirror, at any time, before, during and after an operation. I dealt with the cancer - no worries. I remember the day I was diagnosed, my sister drove me home and it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the waves were sparkling. And I thought 'I've got cancer' and I just felt I have to do something. I think what gave me positivity was the sunshine and water, I've got to be near both. The worry basically was just how the hell am I going to pay for the house, are they going to come and re-possess me. In the hospital it was very bare, no pictures, nothing - fortunately I was by a window, but that door with a little hole in, was knowing what's going on out there and I thought I don't need to know what's going on out there, but I could project something. So I'd imagine that the ocean was out there and the sun, and before I went to sleep I'd close my eyes and I used to see the cancer. It was always pink, bright, bright pink and I used to shoot burning arrows through it to kill it and dispose of it - I still do now. I think it is the Red Indian coming out in me. If I try to go to sleep now and I get a pink blob and I wake up, I think 'no, it's going to start coming out again' - I am surprised I didn't paint any arrows in there.

I think it changed my families more than me, because they worried more than I did. I tried to deal with not upsetting my friends and family by telling them what is happening. Even now I don't tell my family everything. I felt very protective towards everybody. One of the things I would have liked would have been to be able to speak to someone who was coping with it at the time. I didn't have that. My best friend always knew exactly what mood I was in. She could joke about it. One time when my mum brought me a new dressing gown, she said 'look at you, it's not fair, not only have you got cancer but you've got a new dressing gown', That's what I wanted, to make me laugh about it instead of pussy footing around. My advice to others would be don't be afraid to ask. When I asked, they would say you don't really want to know. So don't be scared of asking. Fight it. You've got to be prepared to battle. God help anyone whose been told, you've got cancer. Be prepared to fight. Fight hard. Be strong. It has changed my life, and controlled my life. I couldn't make plans - it was always tests or x-rays or that damn machine. I hope I am in control now. It is strange, although it is in the past, I want it to be out my life totally. I've got this niggling feeling it isn't, so I am recharging myself, a week in the sunshine and coming back to deal with it. Hopefully it will be gone by then.