The Edge of Heart ……The Journey Continues

Painting selected for publication in “The Healing Muse”, A Journal of Literary and Visual Arts, publication October 2011 Center for Bioethics and Humanities, SUNY UMU, Syracuse, Following is an excerpt from my journal  submitted with this painting as my muse for painting on the edge.THE BIG C

From the Artist Journal

Tuesday May 12, 2000

Where am I?  Like this new-fangled keyboard, I keep trying to find my keys, my order, and my purpose.  Every day brings another manic emotion.  I’m going to do this, or that.  This will be the day.  Today I will…and so it goes…. until I feel totally frustrated, trapped within my own trappings.  I have maybe too many things going on.  One thing for sure, a daily writing about, it or not writing about it, whatever the case may be, can only lead to some revelations.  Hopefully soon, as I feel I am running out of time.  There, that’s it, running out of time, I wonder if this is what is really bothering me.  How can I allow this fear to continuously permeate everything I do?   It has been almost two years since I was diagnosed with cancer.  Isn’t that interesting, I went back 3 times on that word cancer, trying to decide if I should capitalize the c or not.  You’ve heard of the Big C.  Oh yes, I was writing about the cancer.  I guess it was a long time coming.  This little cancer cell that was hidden within me, just waiting for the appropriate stressed out time to rear its ugly head.  In my case a tumor the size of golf ball in my neck.  I remember it was just after the sometimes-annual spring open house at the Delavan Center.  This is where I have my studio and go almost daily to create or whatever. There I stood in front of the mirror early on a Sunday morning, May 17, 1998, applying moisturizer in the attempt to stave off the aging process, a daily ritual I take pride in doing as I find this time somewhat self-indulgent and pleasant.  But this morning it was different, as it had been so many mornings before, for I’ve been noticing changes, changes I did not understand and had been blaming them on all the family problems that had been thrust upon us the past year.  Some of the changes were a constant bloating, of the face mostly, and this morning something more, a tiny bump in the left side of my neck.  I thought how strange, maybe an insect bit me; I didn’t know but distinctly knew that there was something strange about it.  Later in the day, at a restaurant, we took my mother-in-law to for a belated Mothers’ day outing, I again noticed it in the mirror of the restroom.  My young niece, Susan who was with me also noticed, or perhaps noticed my preoccupation with it and asked what it was.  I remember saying; I don’t know and kind of laughed it off as a mosquito bite and didn’t think of it again for the rest of the day.  I did mention it to my husband Bob, who in his not unusual concerned and caring way responded with, “you better have it, checked out by the Doctor”.

JULY 14, 2010

Twelve years have passed and I AM A CANCER Survivor.  It has left its mark and i carry the side effects with me every day.  My strength comes from surviving this ominous disease.  I have become a survivor’s survivor and continue to live out my journey through the abstract.

July 16, 2012                       Not Forgotten

It is and can be an ominous journey to survive cancer and continue on with your life but it can be done with the help of loving friends, good doctors and most importantly a dedicated and caring family.

Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed with 4th stage invasive squamous cell carcinoma that had metastasized to my neck limp nodes and muscles.  The original tumor had started in my tongue.  I didn’t smoke and only socially drank a glass of wine on occasion.  But my life was highly stressful and I was very worried about problems some of my family members were having.  These things cannot be helped and we all have to deal with ups and downs, including tragedies of all sorts.

After my initial diagnosis I went to Roswell Park Cancer Research center for a 2nd opinion with Dr. Laurie, Head and Neck Cancer.  He was very truthful and did not pull any punches.  When I left there, with my husband Bob by my side, I fully realized the challenge to survive this disease, and the impact it would have upon our lives.

My next move was to seek out a holistic healer as I am deeply spiritual and believe in healing in the most natural way.  I remember it was one week after I had been diagnosed and 2nd opinioned that I visited Natur-tyme, which at that time was located over on Charles Ave. in West vale.  I asked if they knew of anyone who practiced holistic healing and sure enough there was someone there in the back who was a well-respected practitioner.  His name was Mr. Williams and he use to work in the pharmaceutical field and had a great background and knowledge of how chemicals work in the body.  He too was brutally frank but gentle and knew even before I told him that I had cancer as he reached his hand up to touch the protruding lump in the side of my neck.  He said I must have it cut out and also to have radiation, he explained that even in the bible it says to cut and burn out inflictions of the body.  But in the same breath he also said do not get chemo-therapy as your body must be strong to accept the healing of nature.  He lined up in front of me a few items he recommended to me to start my healing process and gently said to meditate, be at peace and let my worries go and to come back to see him after the surgery.  So I left there with great hope and healing in my heart that I carried out the door with the healing items he gave to start my journey to recovery.  They were pure green tea, 100% aloe Vera juice to gargle with, Cassie’s tea, (tonic tea), Miso Soup, (seaweed), and IP 6, an herbal capsule that shrunk tumors.  My surgery was scheduled for June 30th, 6 weeks from my initial diagnosis and I could feel the thing throbbing and growing in my neck especially when I hugged those I love it seemed to pulsate with some kind of strange energy.  I know now that was the spiritual healing gift that Mr. Williams passed on to me when he reached with his hand to touch the tumor in my neck.  Each day right up to the time of the surgery I took the capsules, six in the morning and six at night, gargled with the aloe Vera juice, drank the teas, sipped the soup and meditated.  In the meantime I tried not to think of or envision the possibilities of the outcome to the surgery and the following radiation treatments.  As I said earlier it is an ominous disease and can be very cruel.

My surgeon Dr. Michael Paciorek, young and fresh into practice with all the latest knowledge of Otolaryngological surgery was conferring with Dr. Laurie of the Roswell Park Cancer Research Center.  They shared ideals and views and possibilities of the most successful way to say my life and not to disfigure my face.  Of course, I did not want to lose my tongue and jaw, but I wanted to live.  I wanted to be around for those I knew that needed me to be there for them.  That was the secret right there and I learned that much later.  It is important to be needed and feel you have a purpose for being here.  My family truly needed me.

After the surgery, in which my surgeon had used a new approach to radical neck surgery, I woke up with my face and jaw intact but still had cancer.  You see, the holistic healing was kicking in and they were surprised to learn once at the tumor sites that they had greatly decreased in size….so my brilliant surgeon decided to take away what he could without disfiguring me.  I did lose all the nodes and the large muscles areas in my neck and few other things like saliva glands but it was the least of what could have been.  Waking up in recovery I learned I was still alive and reached up to touch my face and could feel my jaw and nose but I couldn’t talk.  I learned later that part of my vocal cords had been affected and I may always have some difficulty talking and swallowing.  Saliva glands were gone and the following radiation to kill the rest of the cancer burned out what ever glands that were struggling to survive but in the end killed the cancer.

My oncologist, Dr. Chung, who administered the eight weeks of daily radiation,  was inspirational and supportive and agreed with everything I was doing including refusing the Chemotherapy that he had to recommend along with the radiation.  On the record he never agreed to it but off the record he certainly did.  A great man and later he and his wife purchased a large square painting, Red Sunday, for their home.  Dr. Paciorek has “Squares of Life” hanging in his office and tells my story to every head and neck cancer patient that comes in to his office for treatment.   To Be Continued….

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Linda Bigness is an internationally exhibited artist who maintains a gallery/studio in Syracuse, New York. Her work has been exhibited in several prestigious solo and group shows that have involved notable jurors such as art critic Clement Greenberg, Ivan Karp, director of OK Harris Gallery in NYC, and Tom Piche, director of the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, Bigness’ large scale paintings are often selected and commissioned for corporate and residential clients, including the Turning Stone Resort, Merrill Lynch Corporation, Haylor, Freyer and Coon, and Bausch and Lomb. She continues to exhibit professionally at several venues with artwork featured frequently at the Nan Miller Gallery in Rochester, NY. Presently she is working on her latest book and exhibition about abstract art and the contemporary processes used by working artists today. Part of the research for this book is taken from the workshops she teaches and her oil painting and mixed media collage experience. For over 30 years Bigness has used her expertise to share with others the unique beauty and processes of her chosen medium through writing, teaching and professional exhibits. Her first book “Paint It, Tear It, Create It” offered the reader insight into visual abstract thinking through the process of collage into painting. She continues to explore the abstract through surface manipulation using encaustics and oil and is currently working on a new series, the “Journey Stones Revisited,” a reflection upon her extensive travels throughout the United States and Europe.

2 thoughts on “The Edge of Heart ……The Journey Continues”

  1. Wow. The big C or little c as my family calls it, has once again been put in its place and that is not in the body. I appreciate you sharing this. I have out lived 2 siblings and have lost another, to cancer, a sister 15 years older than I. Although they fought long and hard for over 3 decades with different types of cancers they did succumb from other kinds. My eldest sister, now 80, had ovarian and uterine cancer, then 14 years latter another bout. She has had skin cancer, but all is good today. One brother had skin cancer but died of Lou Gerhigs’s disease, ALS. My thoughts are about how much time I have left, but mostly feel just so blessed to be on this Earth. Healing through alternative medicine is wonderful. My sister Pat, who is 80, is alive as a result of some external healing power or spirit. I am so glad you are here. Life is so precious.

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