Cancer Survivors Pictorial – How Cancer Changed Me

Frequently, I received emails from cancer survivors who ask these questions:  “Shouldn’t I be over cancer by now?” “Why do I feel worse years after fighting cancer?”  “Will I ever be normal again?”  Often they tell me how misunderstood they feel because family and friends do not understand why that are not “over it” and have not been able to move on.

Watching my sister, Diann, emerge from one year of active treatment for Stage 3 Breast Cancer, her story of change becomes more vivid as I watch her make the baby steps of getting to a new, different life and watching her discover who she is after treatment ends.

So I came up with a SIMPLE project that takes less than 15 minutes to do that will help give you an INSTANT picture of where you came from, where you are, and where you hope to be after cancer.  Doing this small assignment myself proved to be more valuable than therapy to me!

These are my directions:   go to the internet, magazines, or some other resource that you can tear out or cut and paste pictures of a theme that inspires you.  As you will see below, some of the women who did this assignment went with their interests – landscapes, flowers, birds, fabrics. Yours might be symbols, houses, boats, food – the sky is the limit!!   Find five (5) pictures that represent the following:

  1. Your life before cancer diagnosis
  2.  Your life during cancer treatment.
  3.  Your life after cancer treatment ended.
  4.  Your life as it is in the present.
  5.  Your life as you hope it to be in the future.
Here are the results of some of these cancer survivors’ projects:
From Melissa – an RN who lives in the Southern United States and loves flowers.  Melissa is a Stage 2 Survivor and 3 years out from treatment.  Melissa had SEVEN breast-related surgeries!!  Melissa has been through so much.  Her NOW picture is so interesting because in that photo she is looking up through those flowers as if she is a new bud yet still on the ground.  Here is Melissa’s story in pictures:
From Kelly  – who is 3.5 years out from Chemotherapy for Stage 2 breast cancer.  Kelly raises birds and relates to their beauty and habits.  In the midst of surviving cancer, her mom passed away.  Kelly’s story is quite fascinating – from L to R – Cardinal, House Sparrow, House Finch, Cat Bird, Blue Bird.   Kelly’s pictures are so telling because everything turned to gray from her colorful life before cancer, yet she has the hope of being colorful once again and taking flight!
From Diann – my sister, finished active treatment in January of 2016.  Diann relates to landscapes and their beauty.  Here is her story in pictures.    Particularly telling is the picture of the woman in the sandstorm all alone who can’t find her way.  I especially like her rainbow picture which shows she is feeling hopeful although the skies are still very dark.
From me – I chose fabrics because that is one more reason why I love my online shop for cancer patients as I get to see so many fabrics.  What was telling to me was my After picture which included my mom’s diagnosis of Stage 1 breast cancer then my sister’s diagnosis of Stage 3 breast cancer.  Clearly that picture said to me, “Here we go again!” and the up and down repetition of that fabric.  My Now shows a bunch of colorful symbols but they are still not yet fully woven together – it is colorful yet fragmented.
Seeing these pictures clearly defines why it is not possible to put cancer fully behind you as it is incorporated into the “fabric” of your being.  Just knowing that and being able to live with that fact, is extremely healing.
I urge you to try it it should prove to be very meaningful.  If you are willing to share your photos with me, I would LOVE to see your story.  Feel free to Email them to me at









  1. Thank you Denise. I will now have time to read this I need some inspiration and this is hell. Tonight out of the shower I was trimming my toenails they ache and they’re all turning brown I hate chemotherapy as much is Herceptin always coughing nose running sorry to complain but it hurts hurts hurts! Thank you so much for your inspiration stay well!!


    This message was sent from an iPhone, please excuse any typos.


    • Jodi, it is hell, that is for sure. So very sorry – I had coughing and runny nose and many sinus issues with Herceptin, too!
      So sorry you have that…it is all so challenging and difficult. Nothing prepares you for it. But I can tell you have the inner
      strength to make it through!! Hope this post gives you some inspriation – sending hope, encouragement, and strength to you! Denise

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