‘The drawings gave my mind something to focus on’: Scottish artist has created a series of drawings depicted her journey after cancer diagnosis
Gillian McLaren was 33 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the pandemic and is now speaking out about her journey in support of Cancer Research UK.
She said: “There’s nothing that prepares you for the words, ‘you have cancer.’
“I was told in a very gentle and sensitive way but it was still a shock.
"I had always hoped that one day I’d have a family of my own. I was told I’d lose my fertility during treatment.
"Cancer was threatening my life but it was also taking away my choice to one day have children. That fertility loss felt like a death.
“But the love and support I got from my family and friends in those dark days was phenomenal.
"It was that love and my Christian faith which carried me through. It was the height of the pandemic, the world felt out of control and I leant in to my faith.”
Gillian was admitted to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary for major abdominal surgery including removal of her womb, ovaries and appendix.
She continued: “The pandemic was at its peak and pressures on the NHS that day meant it was uncertain whether there was an operating theatre available.
“I sat up in bed and fought for that operation with every last bit of energy I had.
"Covid is awful and was taking lives but cancer also took lives.
"I was only 33 and had so much to live for."
Gillian, who lives in Stirling, wants to raise awareness of the signs of ovarian cancer, especially in younger women, and help other young people with the disease feel less isolated.
She started her sketches while in hospital, depicting the nurses and specialists who were helping her.
“My drawings, titled ‘Portraits and Tales from a Hospital bed’ portray some of the amazing people who looked after me.
“It’s my tribute to them and a way of thanking them all. The drawings capture a moment in time.
"There’s a drawing of the porter who brought me an extra blanket to keep me warm, the cleaner with a lavender spray who lifted my spirits and my consultant who always made me feel safe and knew the right thing to say.
“Some people say I’m brave but I’ve not had a choice. I’ve had to get through somehow. There have been many tears along the way.
"There have been times when words are not even enough to describe what it’s like having cancer. There’s pain and hurt which sometimes is better expressed through art.”
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman for Scotland, said: “We are grateful to Gillian for her support.
“We know that 2020 was a year like no other and we had to overcome many challenges thrown our way during the global pandemic.
"But this past year proves, more than any other, the value of investing in science and medical research and what can be achieved by working together.
"Just like science is our route out of the pandemic, science is our route to beating cancer.
"We are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.”
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