Looking for help with chemo and surgery experiences

Chemotherapy and Surgery experiences- looking for volunteers

Hi all,

I’m currently a Pink week representative for Caius College, Cambridge and looking for volunteers to sit for a portrait drawing class to fundraise for Breast Cancer Now and numerous other breast cancer charities.

My mother sadly passed away after 4 years of treatment for breast cancer including radiotherapy, chemo and surgery. The physical changes that come with cancer treatment are harrowing and isolating, and by running a life drawing class involving real patients I wish to destigmatise, and indeed find a little beauty in, women undergoing treatment. I created portraits of my mother after her mastectomy and reconstruction and it made her feel more normal. We shared all the physical ails of cancer treatment, and the experience made me much more empathetic to all undergoing this ordeal. I wish for such a portrait class to provide the same wye opening experience for young people across Cambridge, and raise money for great charities. Of course those sitting for portraits would not be nude, and the classes would be run entirely with your comfort in mind. If you are in the south of England and are interested in volunteering please email me at lkt36@cam.ac.uk

Hi Katherine


I’m sorry to read of your loss that’s inspiring this new project, which sounds potentially powerful in the move to destigmatise breast cancer. I wish you every success. I wonder however if it might have more impact if it came from a less negative baseline. The physical changes that come with cancer treatments MAY BE harrowing and isolating FOR SOME. Many others have different, possibly more positive experiences. My own mother shrugged off two episodes of breast cancer, 25 years apart, both including surgery and radiotherapy for one. She couldn’t understand the fuss around it (her words). Your work with your mother must have made a huge impact on her wellbeing and ‘made her feel more normal.’ Personally I feel my mastectomy scar is completely normal. It’s just I was forced to find a new normal. There are websites that celebrate flatties (Flat Friends is one) and explore fashion that enhances the flat or unbalanced chest.


Recent research questions the type of language used around cancer. This is just one report: theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/10/war-cancer-metaphors-harm-research-shows

We repeatedly hear and read about the battle against cancer and famous people who’ve lost their fight against cancer and it’s disempowering.  I see it on this forum, with women who are experiencing the physical and emotional traumas of this illness apologising for feeling weak, when in fact they are experiencing a perfectly normal human reaction. Why should we be strong? I would say the psychological impact of breast cancer has been a greater ‘ordeal’ for me than the physical (and I had a horrid time during chemotherapy).


Obviously you’ve caught me on one of my hobby horses. I think what I’m trying to say is that opening the eyes of young people across Cambridge might possibly include changing their perception of breast cancer as a horrifying illness to live in fear of when the survival rate is now above 90% and treatments are improving every year. People like me ARE horrified when we get our diagnosis and do go through marked periods of fear but that’s because we’ve been constantly exposed to negative beliefs about cancer. If they could be removed or just softened, we might accept the diagnosis with greater equanimity. For me, that’s where the battle against cancer lies. 

I understand what you are trying to do. I surmise you may get volunteers, ladies who are comfortable with the ideology of breast cancer as it exists, but I am in Jaybros camp that the impact of the disease would be easier to cope with if patients weren’t, by default and all good intentions, depicted as somehow freakish creatures. But I wish you luck and success with your project. Wonky ( name chosen for humour). 

Katherine :heart: For sharing your beautiful story of the shared journey you had with your mother during her breast cancer :heart: She would be proud you are trying to raise more awareness with this class you are trying to get started. As you know there are so many emotions and hurdles to overcome and continue to overcome and each one of us has a different story to tell. I encourage you to have both female and male models as bc does not distinguish who and at what age it can take you on its journey :heart: I hope that you can turn the drawings into an exhibition that can tour the UK so it can raise awareness and funds for more research :heart:???:sparkles::sparkles:shi xx