On 01.02.02, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Too late for surgery, I had chemotherapy, which failed. In May the chemotherapy was changed and I was soon in remission which was celebrated and welcome and lasted nine years - until October 2011. There was progression in 2011 so more treatment was indicated and I am now back in partial remission. But I'm not only a cancer patient - I also enjoy my family, walk my dogs and am learning to draw and paint. Life is good!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A bridge from where to where

When I worked with the kids in Juvenile Hall in the week before New Year's Day -- both the arts and crafts bunch and the girl's therapy group -- I asked them to draw a bridge, something to connect 2007 with 2008. Most were uncertain as to how to make the bridge drawing, but that wasn't the point. In the air I traced a short diagonal line up, a longer line across, and another short diagonal line down -- that would be enough for the bridge needed for their drawing. Then I asked them to draw, write, suggest or somehow denote some aspect of their lives they would like to change and put that on the left side of their bridge. On the right side they could draw the change they wanted to see. Under the bridge they drew their personal trolls, whatever might keep them from this change. Over the bridge they drew their strengths and potential helpers.

Their responses were clear, sometimes poignant. "I want a dog," wrote one boy. He showed a lonely kid holding an empty leash on the left and a warm snuggly dog on the right. Others drew pictures of life with and without drugs, with and without fights. One drew a figure without family ties replaced with a loving dinner table scene.

I only drew the picture in my head. If I had made the drawing, it was a no-brainer, I would have shown a hunk of cancer cells on the left and vibrant, healthy cells on the right. Just seeing the image in my mind's eye felt healing and that's what I wanted for myself.

I have always loved bridges. Of all the constructions made by humans, the totem most personal to me would have to be the bridge. At Juvenile Hall, for example, I often feel like the bridge between the kids and the staff. I'm not at all like the kids and I'm not at all like the staff. I don't act out and get in trouble and I don't count points, enforce shirt-tucking rules or act on other minor infringements. It's a role that I've felt many times throughout my life.

So this week, when our watercolor instructor asked us to work on a series or to paint several studies of something that interested us, I went to our local park and snapped several photos of a little bridge to use as references. In class I was disappointed with how my studies were turning out so I waited until I had some time this evening to prop up in front of the CNN Michigan primary reports and tried again with watercolor pencils. This was a better result.

Today is the first day of Week Three of 2008. I've read three books so far, wrote another snail letter and a snail note plus five more short notes to girls at Juvenile Hall (13 altogether), only walked 45 minutes in the entire week (4-1/4 hours in all), neither gained nor lost weight (that's a triumph in itself), cooked a second meal, didn't read any short stories and still haven't seen any movies this year, found my knitting but didn't start it, etc., etc. So... I guess you could call it progress in slow motion, nothing remarkable, but hey! I'm old, I have cancer (I play the cancer card every now and then) and I'm doing great!


  1. Great drawing Barbara!

  2. That's a great bridge. I can hear the water flow. Really great. I enjoy your blog more and more.
    Keep on going.

  3. Anonymous6:03 AM

    Sounds like progress to ME!! Maybe you should rent The Bridges of Madison County.....*L* nice bridge, good water flow...deni...;)

  4. What a nice sketch, now you can get out and walk and sketch!!!

  5. You guys are all the best! I really am trying hard to draw every day, to study in classes and through books, and to make this a priority in my life. Responses like yours help keep me going -- there's nothing like feeling accountable to nudge me forward. Thank you so much for reading my blog (yes, Meinhild, it has been changing and getting more verbose) and for your encouraging comments. - Barbara


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