Friday, September 28, 2007

A stroke of genius


I've been struggling with several things recently and I think I may have come up with a plan that will be the answer to at least one of them, and simultaneously knock a few of the others into a cocked hat.

I've been thinking about how I could possibly 'give something back' to the world of cancer and the professions and research and support networks that surround it. Merely installing a Macmillan collection box on my work reception desk is not enough. Especially if no fucker sticks any money in it. It's been two days and it's still empty. I'm astounded but there you go. It's not my money so who am I to judge...

Anyway, I digress. My Archimedes-like flash of brilliance came to me earlier today when the machine broke down with me on it. I was stranded on the radiotherapy board for ten minutes or so, trying to remain perfectly still while nurses ran in and out to fix things.

I lay there thinking about how weird it was that I've had fifteeen radiotherapy appointments plus several planning sessions and one of today's nurses was still new to me. I am treated by two nurses a day, and while several familiar faces tend to rotate, it's indicative of how many of them there are that I am still meeting new people. It got me thinking about the huge number of people who have helped me through this whole process, medically speaking, from my GP to the surgeons, to the breast care nurses and reflexologists, oncology nurses and specialists, radiotherapy professionals, Macmillan volunteers, physios and therapists, and even the reception team at Harley Street who know me by name and cover for me when I have to park my bicycle in the hall when I have forgotten my lock keys. There is a long list of help and support I need to make a list of all the people who have helped me and the sheer scale of people involved, that touch the process of diagnosis and treatment that individuals like me have gone through, is quite overwhelming. It deserves recording in some way.

Better still I thought, as the cogs whirred in my brain (but not yet the radiotherapy machine), wouldn't it be great to tell the story of all the people that have helped me through a photographic study. To take portraits of the people involved at every stage, in every role.

What's more, I could take these portraits and create a collection of photos that tells my story, which mirrors the stories of thousands of other women undergoing similar experiences, and take it to a gallery to be exhibited to raise money and awareness for breast cancer causes. To do it in partnership with Macmillan, to raise money for Macmillan. The photos could be sold as prints, could be created into calendars or other merchandisable items for sale, there could be a voluntary donation scheme at the exhibition itself, maybe even a book.

It feels slightly pipe-dreamy but there really should be no reason why it could not work. I have the contacts. Our creative director is well connected in the arts and galleries world and has advised on photography award committees etc etc. He know galleries who may be interested. We know repro houses who could help out on the printing side of things. My main fear is that my photography skills may not be up to carrying the full responsibility of creating the content for the project but we know plenty of photographers who may be willing to help. But there's an emotional bit of me that would love the challenge and significance of taking the photographs myself.

I've tested the idea on a few people today and they have all agreed it's strength. It scares me slightly, because it is a daunting task and I would need to get moving on it straight away. But the prospect also thrills me. Part of the reason I've written this post on the day I've thought of the idea is so that I can't conveniently 'forget' about it, like sort of blackmailing yourself.

But the very fact that my brain works again, can think in this way, and that I can get excited about a project like this and relish the idea of getting stuck in, makes me more convinced that I am getting back to normal than any physical manifestation of well-being.

Well, I'm off for a weekend of plotting and scheming.

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