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Cancer was a good influence

An artist blogger wrote recently that people don’t come to your blog for your art, they come for you.  If you can’t write something personal, something that lets people (hopefully, people who like your art) get to know you better, then you shouldn’t bother.

So since this is my first real blog post, I guess I better write about something important to me.

Two really important things have happened to me within the last 7 months.  I was diagnosed with cancer in December ’09 and I started an abstract watercolor class at the Art Students League in June ’10.  They may not look like equivalent events, but they both have taught and are continuing to teach me a lot.

So what did my bout with cancer teach me?  (I’ll deal with the abstract stuff in my next blog.)  It taught me about love and friendship and the appropriate/human way to respond to a friend in crisis.

After the diagnosis of anal cancer and all my bad jokes about what a pain in the ass this was, I got down to the serious business of my treatment: 2 weeks of chemo and two months of daily radiation at Roosevelt Hospital.  Beyond the pain, which frankly wasn’t too bad, there was the mind-boggling inconvenience of not being able to sit down at all or even stand for too long.  Try eating lying down … it’s exhausting when you don’t have a lot of energy to start with.  And painting lying down was impossible (with an amazed nod to Matisse creating Jazz from his chaise lounge at the end of his life).

My husband, not otherwise known for his patience, was an absolute rock supporting and loving me every inch of the way.  My son dropped everything in his packed schedule (as part of a software startup about to go live) to drive me to and from the hospital for treatment once a week.  His girlfriend loaned me some hats when I lost my hair.  Three other friends each gave up a day a week to drive me for treatment.  Other friends and family called daily, weekly just to say hi, find out how I was doing and offer encouragement.  My brother somehow knew to call when I was feeling low and he and his wife made four hour drives to bring me cooked meals and soup. Other friends came to visit, brought books, interesting discussions, and laughter.  And people I barely knew called to say they were thinking of me and to wish me well.

It was awesome.  But the comparison with my own behavior in the past was sobering.

Looking back at occasions when my friends or acquaintances were going through difficult times, I know I wasn’t as good a friend to them.  I was too involved with myself.   Now I know how it feels.

Though I’m certainly glad it’s gone, cancer was a good influence on me.  I learned to really appreciate my family and friends and how to be a better friend myself.

Stay tuned for the next blog about my abstract watercolor class and what I’m learning from that.

Categories: General
Posted by ruthhurd on June 21, 2010
9 Comments Post a comment
  1. 06/24/2010


    I’m happy that you decided to start blogging. I have been intermittently writing about what painting means to me, and my views on art. For a time I have been meaning to start blogging as well.

    I’m also dealing with chronic, life threatening illnesses, and I know how difficult it can be. It’s great that you have a support network, it makes all the difference in the world. My support team is little or non-existent and I can tell you from personal experience that it is very isolating. So be thankful that you have such good friends and family, as I know you are.

    It is through failure and struggle that we learn the most. The success which typically follows these events is all the more sweeter.

    Best of health,


    • 06/25/2010

      One –
      Although I know about your art, I didn’t know about your illness. Without family and friends it is very difficult to overcome the depression of a major life threatening illness. I’m not sure I understand how you are doing it. I wish you all the best.


  2. 06/24/2010
    Linda Rubinstein

    Your blog came at a perfect time for me. I am having lunch on Sat. with a cancer support group, and – responding to a friend in crisis – is our topic. Hope you don’t mind that I cut and pasted your first blog and e-mailed them. It really inspired me and I will let you know the group’s response….Linda

    • 06/25/2010

      Linda –
      Be my guest. It’s really validating to think that what I wrote can actually help someone. Ruth

  3. 06/30/2010
    Margaret Mary Rose

    Hi Ruth,

    You may remember me for RAA meetings and exhibitions. I have been a huge fan of your work for some time. Today, I ventured into your blog and was deeply moved. I lost a sister, also an artist, many many years ago to a brain tumor which she so bravely fought. She left behind 3 small children who are all raised to be fine adults. During my own journey with illness, which may make for fodder of a blog itself, I’ve used the arts: performing, written and fine arts to express my joy to pathos. I too would like to forward your blog to a cancer survior. Your work, written as well as visual are inspiration. God Bless.

    • 07/1/2010

      Margaret Mary Rose –
      I DO remember you from RAA meetings. I’m sorry to hear about your sister but glad her children have not just survived, but thrived. May your own illness be conquered. There are no easy solutions, but I wish you all the best with your struggle.


  4. 07/2/2010
    Margaret Mary Rose

    Hi Ruth,

    This form of communication, blogging, which is so very new to me, is really amazing. Thank you for your sensitive response. Hope our paths cross again soon. I”m very busy with music right now, but my hands are itching to pick up a brush or even a pencil. Even if I don’t find the time to paint, I find myself very alert to color as we swoop into this beautiful summer season. Somehow, nature creates with such beauty and grace that I find less of a need to replicate but rather a desire to just be with what is.

    This weekend promises to be “picture perfect” (yes a pun is intended!). Enjoy and thanks for opening up this forum.

    • 06/25/2010

      Thank you, Esteban. I confess I soak up approval and it’s especially welcome when I am frustrated and having a tough time achieving what I want.

    • 07/6/2010

      Margaret Mary Rose – The weekend was wonderful. I actually got to see some of the fireworks from the middle of 40th Street on the east side (corner of Third Ave). Pretty spectacular, given we were on the other side of town. Try to stay cool. Ruth


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