Cancer survivor

By Marie Sharp

THE experiences of cancer survivors will be captured in a new tapestry designed by the artist behind the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry and Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Cockenzie artist Andrew Crummy was inspired to create his latest work after undergoing treatment for cancer himself.

And the first panel of the artwork was completed during lockdown by fellow survivor Heather Swinson, who even added a Covid-19 reference to the finished design, with a stitched kiss as a symbol of caring and compassion.

The final stitch on the first of eight panels being sewn for The Cancer Tapestry was due to be added by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP; however, lockdown meant stitcher Ms Swinson had to do it herself during an online ceremony attended by Ms Freeman, Mr Crummy and oncologist Dr Ioanna Nixon, along with surgeon and educator Rod Mountain.

Mr Mountain, who is based at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, inspired the tapestry design after he asked Mr Crummy to put his treatment experience into drawings.

He said: “While Andrew was in hospital undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I asked him to sketch his cancer experience.

“He produced a few drawings that clearly expressed the deep anxiety and tough physical journey he was on.

“I later provoked a second challenge to Andrew, linked to his artistic role in the ‘Great Tapestry of Scotland’ project.

“I asked, ‘Why don’t you stitch your cancer story?’ The rest is history.”

Recalling the work he produced during his treatment, Mr Crummy, said: “I kept drawing right through my treatment and now I want to do a series of paintings based on these sketches.

“What surprised me about the first sketch I did is it is full of colour and patterns, which I think reflects my attitude to it.”

Dr Nixon, who treated Mr Crummy, said of the tapestry: “Cancer is affecting and will affect many of us one way or another.

“The aim is to create a tapestry telling the cancer story of at least a thousand people, stitch by stitch.

“It will become an educational tool that can tour not only galleries but hospitals and community centres, and we hope that it will ultimately become a global activity carried out in countries around the world.

“Andrew’s story is a story of compassion and resilience and an example of where there is a love of medicine, there is love of humanity.”

The Cancer Tapestry came about after a RISE (Resilience, Inform, Support, Empower) sarcoma event organised by Dr Nixon, in Falkirk, for patients and carers in 2018.

cancer patient

During that event, Mr Crummy talked about his experience and his art and shared the idea of the tapestry, which was supported by patients and carers attending.

The aim of The Cancer Tapestry is to tell 1,000 stories of cancer, and to show the compassion of NHS staff, family and friends.

Each panel is surrounded by 10cm “cells”, and stitched into each cell is an individual story.

The cancer cell kits have been sent across the world to stitchers who want to add their story to the tapestry.

One of the cells on the first panel has been dedicated to Covid-19 and marks the impact of the virus on its creation.

The Cancer Tapestry currently has eight panels being stitched and more panels planned in East Lothian, Glasgow, Dundee, Walton-on-Thames and Leeds.

On completion of the first panel, Ms Freeman said: “It is inspiring to see and be part of the completion of this tapestry, particularly at this challenging time.

“Cancer has not gone away during the current pandemic, and all involved in the cancer tapestry should take great pride in carrying on and completing this fantastic project.

“I am grateful for the ongoing efforts of all those involved in continuing the majority of cancer care and treatments.

“The key message is that at the heart of all healthcare are people with hopes and fears and every single one of them matters.”

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