Big thank you from

How painting helped me get my life back after cancer


Bridget Weir, Donna Trainor and Joanne Robinson, Art Therapist at the Ulster Cancer Foundation.
	WORK by a Derriaghy woman who says she got her life back through painting after being diagnosed with breast cancer last January are featuring in a special exhibition to celebrate at the Ulster Cancer Foundation's 40th anniversary.

The charity is hosting the art exhibition entitled 'Emotions' and launching a book of writings and artwork produced by people who have been affected by cancer.

The work has been created by patients and carers attending UCF's art therapy and creative writing services.

Bridget Weir from Derriaghy describes the art class as getting her 'her life back again. She exhibited three pieces -a field of bluebells, a bowlful of yellow daisies and an angel.

Diagnosis of cancer came as a big shock to 62-year-old Bridget in January 2009. Always fit and healthy, she had never smoked, rarely drank and looked the picture of health. She did all the things you are supposed to do and always went for check-ups at the breast screening centre as well as regularly checking herself.

It was actually during a breast screening the cancer was discovered and she was diagnosed with grade two Ductal carcinoma. Thirteen days later she had surgery to remove the left breast at the City Hospital.

"It came as a total shock to me and my family," said Bridget. "The worst part was breaking the news to my family. They could not believe that I could look so well but was so ill and did not even know it.

"I was completely unaware that I was so ill. There were no signs. It was an awful time for me."

She said that the surgery too was traumatic.

"The surgery was invasive and took away my whole confidence. It saps your spirit and takes away your sexuality as a woman," she said. "Your whole life is different. Your clothes are different. "From that time on nothing will be the same again. You consider your life differently and you never take your family, or your life for granted."

Bridget started attending art classes at the Ulster Cancer Foundation as a coping mechanism. Even to get onto the bus to the class was a big step.

"I knew that my family were there for me but people have to get on with their lives and I needed to get myself out," she said.

"I had not painted for over 40 years since I was at school.

"It was a place to talk to other people. It was my saving grace. It helped me focus away from cancer, away from doctors' appointments and away from hospitals."

Bridget, who has since returned to full time work, plans to return to the art classes.

"I would encourage anyone to take a class," she said. "You can just sit and just be. You do not have to be the centre of anything.

"When you are diagnosed with cancer it takes your future away but art therapy is a simple process which helps you focus on today. It gave me my life back."

Ulster Star