Tracey

This painting is a description of how they saw me, the me in the hospital bed. I was considered to be a patient and I was treated like a patient and this rather negated the rest of my life - the life that had been going on outside up until the moment I was admitted. It is a bleak sight; I am just a face above the sheets. I was working in High Holborn: work was a very important part of my life. I was struck by the red arch and so I felt that represented the work aspect of my life. The get-well card I received from a friend who is a 'bit of a lad'. He's not particularly sentimental but he sent it saying, 'I can't send you flowers so here's a card of flowers', and I was quite touched. There's a picture of my cat on a cushion because I realised just how very valuable he was to me. When I had my operation not only was my bowel taken away but my womb as well, so I'm not able to be have children. I admit it, he is a child substitute and therefore I am extremely fond of him. I found out that my niece Flora was going to be born as I was going into hospital to have a rather nasty thing removed from within me. I was very aware of the parallel with my sister-in-law who, I am very pleased to say, was going to have something very nice removed from her, Flora, an absolute joy.

We're now very good friends, along with all my other nieces and nephews. The picture of me and my partner hugging each other in the nude, with various people looking on is a statement of us - our deep relationship, and the relationship between me and my parents, and all the other people who have been so very supportive. All these things were going on outside this bed life. I was only in for a week, it drove me mad because it was far too hot, I wasn't getting any sleep and I needed to get home to all these things I am talking to you about. I had a bit of space left and I thought I should do me walking along my journey. I made it the yellow brick road. I needed a colour and I chose yellow. It shows that you do have to fall back on your own resources and examine your own inner feelings and your own inner capabilities.

An experience like this does make you think deep down to your core. As soon as you're diagnosed the medical profession sees you as being the illness with a person attached. Actually you are an ordinary person, with something dreadful that has happened to you, absolutely dreadful. That doesn't mean that all the rest of your life isn't carrying on. Maybe you're going to have to withdraw from some of it because of the physical limits, but things like relationships will still be there. So this picture is about how you are viewed: as the illness, a cancer patient in that bed, somebody who's had a colostomy. I don't blame anybody, I'm just saying that's how it feels. I was warned that there would be people who would find it very difficult to cope with and some who might cross the road rather that talk to you. I managed to find a way of telling people and making it sound like there was a chance, there was hope, and therefore they shouldn't get upset about it. I cried buckets to get to this stage but I think it helped other people with facing the illness. People still treated me with kid gloves, gradually that's changing.

It is a great joy when people start treating you normally, or even harshly again, you know you're on the road to recovery. I would like the medical profession to treat you as a person. You could be their sister or brother. You could be them. Just think how you would like it if you were treated as if your brains were removed before you came in. Try and remember we are individuals and not just patients, and try to give hope. There are people out there who have had this, been treated and got through it. Those people don't make the headlines. They have disappeared into the distance and are getting on with life. I'd like to be there everytime someone's diagnosed to just say,"I know somebody who's got through it". Not being believed can be one of the hardest parts of all this too, not to be taken seriously when you know there is something seriously wrong. I started getting pain, and so I knew I was ill but I was being told by the medical profession, who looked at the scans, 'you're fine'. The fact was I wasn't fine. Luckily I stuck with what my body was telling me and insisted on something being done. It was a great relief when they eventually acknowledged that I really was ill and that the pain was real. There is this sense of catharsis when at last everybody agrees what the situation is. Also I would always ask, 'is there anything I can do?' That is extremely important because of the feeling that things are running away with you, and that you don't have any control. I need to feel that I can do something to help this process. I'm part of the team to help me get better too.