By Izi Coonagh (Scotland)

(Acrylic on wooden board)

“In 2017 I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer after my first routine mammogram. ( I nearly didn’t attend!!..) 

I had just been given a place on a one day painting course at Leith School of Art. I contacted the principle thinking I should drop out as I wouldn’t manage to attend much of the course and someone else would make better use of the time. But his response was no, you must keep your place and come as little or as much as you can manage…. it was so amazing to be given such support, care & understanding. I had no idea how supportive attending this course would be.

Initially I was really adrift in the darkest storm of worry and terror, I had held my closet friends hand as she died from breast cancer, many years earlier. Which meant at first I struggled to see anything but death ahead of me. Having somewhere else to go in my head, to spend time thinking about what will I paint, how will I paint it, filled so many sleepless nights and though my work referenced my experience entirely it was still a place of sanctuary and respite from the storm of decisions and the brutalities of treatment. 

The course held me through chemotherapy, surgery and finished just after I completed radiotherapy (perfect timing).  During this time I completed two paintings, which are the first works I have created from my own experience. The first is of a hand holding a piece of white heather, which felt like it summed up that my fate was in the hands of luck…. 

The second painting represents the two approaches I took to healing the cancer. On the left is the conventional medicine, the chemo, surgery etc…and on the right is the holistic, Mistletoe Therapy ( in the drip too) Chinese Herbs symbolised by the mushrooms underneath me, and the love and support of friends and family represented by the feather held in my hand. I would not have found my way through without both of theses approaches to healing. I have been extremely blessed to have the care, love, support and expertise of so many wonderful people which helped me find my way to healing. I am incredibly grateful.”


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