Amanda was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2013. After some stressful experiences with treatment, she rediscovered herself through art.
I was already going through a stressful time
I will never forget the week I found my lump.
It was 5 December 2013. My husband and I were going through a very stressful period. I received a call from his work to say he had collapsed in his office and was found slumped in his chair. Instead of calling an ambulance, his staff called me and I rushed him to hospital. He was kept overnight with a suspected heart attack but let out the next day.
I decided to rest on our bed while he was sleeping, primarily to make sure he was ok. As I was laying down, I felt a lump. Thinking something was on the bed, I started to feel around for it, only to then discover it was on my left breast.
I didn’t want to worry my husband, so I showed a friend who insisted I get it checked out.
I got my diagnosis quickly
I thought I was well informed about breast changes, as my grandmother had had breast cancer. I’d also had a mammogram six months previously. However, I did not know that a visible change in your breast when you look in the mirror could be a sign and puckering like orange peel around the nipple area could also be a sign.
The doctor told me not to worry but insisted that he would call the following day with an appointment at the hospital. The next week, I was given an ultrasound where the lump was very visible. That was then followed by a biopsy.
The result came in three days later: it was positive for breast cancer.
My treatment did not go smoothly
The oncologist suggested that I should have aggressive eight rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the lump, then a lumpectomy followed by radiotherapy. I was lucky that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, but it was suggested that I have my sentinel nodes removed as a precaution.
Unfortunately, I became very ill with an infection from the lumpectomy. I ended up in hospital for nearly three weeks having intravenous antibiotics pumped into me 10 times a day. I also lost the use of my left arm from the infection. The port that had been implanted also became infected, so it could no longer be used to administer drugs.
My first chemotherapy was administered via a canula. I ended up with a permanent line in my right arm as my left arm was too damaged for any medication. This delayed my chemo for a while and, after coming out of hospital, I was on about 27 pills a day.
My chemo restarted about a month later and I also had to have physiotherapy every day for my arm. During this time, I was extremely lucky to have the support of my parents, family and friends.
Art helped me through my treatment
I had just started painting before my diagnosis and I found it was very therapeutic. It became a medicine for my soul. I was able to immerse myself in the colour of the paints, and the imaginary characters that I was creating on the canvas enabled me to reach another world as I went through rigorous treatment.
I decided then that I wanted to do something with my life so that the whole experience was not a waste of time. I also wanted to be able to show anyone who is affected by breast cancer that life carries on.
After I had completed my treatment, I took my art to another level and, since 2016, I have been represented by Artlink International in Florida. I’ve had my work shown every year since (except this year due to the pandemic) at Art Basil/Art Miami and Red Spot. As well as exhibiting in the UK, I now have a website where I put my art onto products.
I’ve loved supporting Breast Cancer Now
I was also lucky enough to be chosen as a model for the Breast Cancer Now fashion show, which was the most amazing experience. It meant so much to me that I was able to show people that life can go on even after the worst things have been thrown at you.
In fact, I painted ‘The Finale’, which I have donated a few prints of to several cancer charity events.
I was also asked to be a speaker at Carols by Candlelight plus I spoke at the Pink Ribbon Ball. I loved being an ambassador for Breast Cancer Now, and I hope it helped people going through the same experience as I have. Since then, I have volunteered at some of their events and am now a volunteer for their Service Pledge.
Breast cancer and art have given me the chance to reinvent myself. Art fills my life with so much joy, creativity, positivity and strength. Without it, I could not have moved forward and met such inspirational people on the way.
I hope to continue to inspire anyone who is affected by this disease.
We know of many people who have found that art has helped them during their breast cancer treatment and diagnosis. For the past few years, we have been delighted to partner with the Society of Women Artists during their annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries.
This year, their 159th exhibition can be viewed online until Wednesday 30th December.
Despite being a charity themselves, a percentage of any sales made during the exhibition will be donated to support Breast Cancer Now to fund life-saving research and care.