I found art therapies really helpful as they act as a form of mindfulness and keep the mind grounded. With every stroke of the pencil on the paper, I was thinking about the shape of the drawing and how each pencil stroke would develop the picture. This process stops any other intrusive thoughts of cancer from entering your mind. I found this really helpful when my mind was starting to quieten down. I felt that my mind had to reach a point of calm before I could engage properly with detailed art. During treatment I found simple crafts easier to engage with when my concentration was worse, for example, simple knitting/crochet, scrap-booking/photo albums, card-making.
I became really immersed in nature, photography and art and in 2020 I launched the Thoughtful Bugs range to support others going through breast cancer and raise awareness of mental health after a cancer diagnosis. It’s a gentle way of processing thoughts through observing nature.
If you are interested in joining an art project, The Breast Cancer Art Project is specifically for people who have been affected by breast cancer (direct and indirect). All funds raised by this project go to breast cancer charities. I felt very proud of having my artwork presented so nicely. It somehow felt more poignant on their website than sitting in a drawing pad at home. This project has given it meaning and purpose. Visual communication is a powerful thing.
The Cancer Chapter: Your Stories is an amazing project run by Helena Traill. 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer. She wants cancer patients to talk honestly about the disease to promote open discussion. Helena’s father had cancer and he didn’t like talking about ‘being ill’ – so this project is all about open conversation and normalising the cancer discussion. Her work is inspired by the ‘Cancer On Board’ badges (canceronboard.org). A fabulous update on this project: it has now been published as a book: 100 Stories. Check out my podcast interview with Helena where I discuss life after cancer quite candidly: https://100storiesbook.com/100-podcast/nikki-bednall/
My Artwork & Poetry
Below are examples of pencil art I’ve done which was enjoyable and therapeutic. Notice the gap in my drawing dates which were done before my diagnosis and after my treatment finished. During my treatment I didn’t draw and made cards instead. I also enjoy photography and you can find me posting photography work on Instagram @nikkibednall
After my cancer treatment had finished, I felt a sense of urgency to draw pictures of my children as I had been so scared of being taken from them. I wanted to cherish drawing every tiny detail of their faces.
It’s become a thing: I’ve written a poem for breast cancer awareness month every year since finishing treatment.
I wrote this poem today which you may relate to. I used for the 2018 “Wear it Pink #55000 reasons” campaign to the Health Secretary to increase NHS funding for breast cancer.
Available as a postcard on Etsy: https://etsy.me/32w1yrU
I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote this poem in about 10 minutes. I have no idea where it came from, maybe I already wrote it in a dream and had to empty my subconscious mind onto paper. Anyway, I like it:
Available as a postcard on Etsy: https://etsy.me/3i0qApq
It’s breast cancer awareness month again and also 3 years since I finished chemotherapy. I really appreciated hats whilst on chemo and that’s exactly what this poem is about.
Available as a postcard on Etsy: https://etsy.me/3lbcxyF