Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Painting and Coping

Editor's note: Deb and I were stunned by the power and honesty of Laura Tasheiko's work. While she normally paints scenes of nature in Maine, her visual journal of breast cancer is remarkable. Make sure to click the link! Suz

It was all new to me. I had absolutely no knowledge or understanding of Breast Cancer prior to my own diagnosis.   Just as important as acquiring knowledge about the disease was journaling about my experience as I lived day to day through each stage of treatment and recovery. Once in treatment, however, I found writing about my experience with Breast Cancer very difficult to do. As I progressed through surgery and chemotherapy treatments words became totally inadequate to describe what I was going through and all the ways my physical being and my life were affected.

The problem for me was the medical terms; take for example, Bilateral Mastectomy. This describes a clinical procedure that is understood on an intellectual level only. It does not even begin to convey the brutal reality of actually experiencing it. And how could I relate with words, in a convincing way, what it really feels like to loose your hair, what bone pain is like, or how lymphedema, blood clots, neuropathy, or other devastating side-effects of breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy treatment can be almost as impossible to contend with as the idea of having the disease itself? Yet I felt compelled to externalize my thoughts and feelings, if only to process and sort them out for myself.

Journaling helps me to clarify my thoughts, acknowledge and integrate my feelings, and maintain my confidence so I can continue participating in my own recovery. In this situation when I could not find the words, I created raw, graphic images in expressive style and color, making mine a Visual Journal. For me this artistic expression more accurately relates my breast cancer journey on the several levels I lived it – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically. Also included in my journal are photographs of places, events and some of the people accompanying me along the way. I am finding as I get further away from treatment and more into recovery, I am once again finding words to use, and so the journal does include some text, as well as photographs, and original paintings. The overall impression is a collage portraying my new reality of life after breast cancer.
Laura Tasheiko, Northport, Maine 2010

Laura Tasheiko is a professionally trained artist with degrees in Studio Art and Art Education. She has taught K-12, as well as adult level students. 
She continues painting and selling her work to both private and corporate collections. You can see more of her work at www.Mainenaturepatings.com 


  1. Beautiful work! Carmen Johnson, 10 year survivor, now metastatic.

  2. WOW!! Not only are you a gifted artist, but it takes a lot of courage to document your breast cancer journey.

    I appreciate your honest portrayals. Magnificent artwork. I also enjoyed reading your posting. As a breast cancer survivor, I understand thoroughly what going through this disease entails.

    Great job!

  3. Nice to meet you Carmen, and thank you both for the comments!

  4. Laura,
    What a gifted and talented artist you are. With your background, it was a natural thing for you to express your emotions through art. You are an inspiration to us all. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. thank you for sharing! you are such an inspiration to many women...we posted a recent entry about the power of journaling! looking forward to reading future entries and will be posting this link on our blog, Twitter & FB.

  6. Laura, thank you so much for using your unique talents to document your journey. The cancer experience is so different for each person, and so difficult to describe. Not only did your words paint an elegant portrait of the range of emotions from fear to the gratitude and hope, but your art adds and extraordinary dimension that speaks to our hearts. I wish you the very best health and happiness.
    Love, Laurie

  7. Laurie thanks for the great comment!!