The American who saw, through the portrayal of the feminine art, how to drain her emotions during the fight against the most common cancer amongst women
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and the second most common cancer in general. About 1.67 million cadres were expected in 2012 worldwide, which accounts for 25% of all cancers diagnosed in women. In the United States, breast cancer is only behind skin cancer for women, and it’s estimated that in 2018, there were be 266,120 new cases, according to the American Cancer Society. If detected in early stages, in most cases, there’s an increase in the possibility of less aggressive treatments and with satisfactory success rates. To increase the statistics of success, all women should be encouraged to know their bodies in order to know what is and what is not normal for their breasts. Most breast cancers are discovered by women themselves through the breast self-exam.
That was the case of the writer and artist Caitlin James (29). The American was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, and from then on the words “too young” were used to describe her case. According to her, the tumour responds to estrogen, which means that for the rest of her life, Caitlin will have to suppress the hormone that literally makes her a woman.
“The issue with treating breast cancer that consumes me the most is not pain, because we are women after all, and we have an incredible resilience to pain. The most difficult part is the fact that it attacks your identity, femininity, among other words, in every step the tumour attacks a part of your female identity. The day after my diagnosis, my mother appeared in my house with countless paints and canvases, and I began to paint ever since. Painting for me is how I try to transcend these emotions, which usually dominates me”, says the artist, emphasizing that she’s not a professional painter and does it only as a hobby.
“My art is very personal to me, I don’t consider myself a professional painter. However, there is a common theme in my work, I would call it femininity and the ability to capture positive images about sex. Sex is something we don’t talk about and I’ve found a way to explore my body and my desires in art. So the feminine is a very common image in my art”.
Do you want to know more about how Caitlin draws the strength to bring her self-portraits to life? Follow our interview below!
Elas sem fronteiras – Using art to express your feelings is part of your work, but it’s also a therapy. What other kind of therapy do you recommend?
Caitlin James – For women facing breast cancer, I really recommend that they look for a professional psychologist. I think this is amazing because that person will act as your coaching throughout the treatment, and will help you through the whole process because chemotherapy takes a lot of time and it’s quite difficult for your body, you will feel all kinds of emotions. So yes, it’s important to have a creative life, whether through music or writing, or anything that makes you create, but it’s also very important to seek a professional psychologist to help you. It can give you an external perspective on what’s happening.
Elas sem fronteiras – How is your work as a writer and artist, important in preserving your identity?
Caitlin James – As an artist and writer, I have a lot of tools to help preserve my identity or, as I should say now, to explore my new identity that has been created through this treatment. Pretty much everything is different about me now, I look different and I have different habits. I’m really a new person and painting offers me a way to explore the aesthetics of this new identity and, like writing, it gives me visibility to explore the deeper inner emotions of this experience.
Elas sem fronteiras – Why should women be better represented in the art world, and how can their work help other women while helping themselves?
Caitlin James – If you have breast cancer, you have all these emotions in you. There’s this feeling of loneliness that you’ve been going through because no one around you will be going through the same thing at the same time. Writing is a way to connect with other women, so I’m trying to build a community for other sisters who are going through the same thing. I hope my writing and my painting provides them a little comfort so that they know they’re not alone on this journey.
Elas sem fronteiras – How did you discover the cancer? How’s life like after you knew it?
Caitlin James – I discovered the tumour when I was giving myself a neck massage, when I was pressing my shoulders, my hands came across the lump that was located on the top of my chest. I knew it was cancer almost immediately when I touched it, because it was different from the rest of my body and, from that day, everything changed. I had to put a lot of things on hold and deal with the fact that I’m a 29 year old who should be out for job interviews or partying with friends. I should be working on my career, or with artistic hobbies, instead of making appointments to see doctors, going through recovery from surgeries, receiving injections, infusions, and everything that usually belongs to the world of older people. It’s very hard for me to come to terms with being so young and having to face it all. Now I feel more older than ever.
Elas sem fronteiras – Can you identify a connection between strength, inner peace, and support (from family and friends) at this time?
Caitlin James – Inner strength is the one you channel to get through these things, so it’s the motivation you have to go to chemo, it’s the strength you have to keep going to work, your momentum of energy that you have for yourself to keep for such a difficult time. Inner peace is you making peace with your treatment, it’s the feeling that you get to continue with your life, you have to be, you have to give yourself away to you, this is what will happen to you, so you start to build your life using your inner power. Then we have family and friends and their support is absolutely crucial, they put you up when you’re feeling down, they’ll be there when you call, and you have to be the connection between them, you need to talk to your family and friends about what’s happening, you have to ask for help when you need it, because they want to help and they have to know what’s going on, they can’t guess everything all the time.
Elas sem fronteiras – What’s the message you have after that situation?
Caitlin James – In a positive way, cancer has allowed a lot of love to come into my life, as the people who really matter have supported me in many ways, even people I don’t know very well has given me loads of support. I have seen a lot of human compassion.
I have to say that I’m really impressed by how compassionate women are to each other. I have strangers sending me gifts, so many people coming up with good intentions, and this is the understanding of collective femininity. No matter where we are in the world, we are responsible for each other and to take care of each other.
Elas sem fronteiras – What would you like to share with women who are facing the same?
Caitlin James –
My message to women who are going through the same situation is that, it’s good to have their sadness, their moment of mourning, and it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to have all these emotions but the most important thing is to have some positivity in your life . So for me, I kept this journey of happiness as follows: I wrote, with good intentions, the things I want to do in the future, things I’m doing now, I just put all the positivity into it, and it was great! So when I’m full of emotions, I have a space to look at and remember all of it. Life is beautiful and that’s why I’m fighting for it.
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