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Stripped Hysteria

Stripped Hysteria

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I have wanted to create a piece of work exploring this subject for a long time, but haven’t been able to until now. Six years after it happened.

Rewind to a year earlier....
My eighteen year long relationship had sadly come to an end. We’d been together since school, had two children, and mostly a wonderful happy time. But I had grown and changed, as people do. And it became obvious it was over. This was heartbreaking and difficult to even comprehend. We had spent all our adult life together. I sat in my mother’s kitchen crying, hoping for a solution that wouldn’t involve heartache and upset, knowing deep down this was simply not possible.

We’d had weeks of not touching, caught in a situation of needing space apart to work out what we wanted, but being trapped within the same house, living our ‘normal life’ with children and family; no one but us aware of what was going on.

A few days later I received a letter from the doctor: my routine smear test had identified abnormal cells. I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to have the familiar comfort and support I had known for so long, so threw myself back in to the marriage with all I had. I mistakenly thought my instinctive urge to turn to him in this hour of need meant I should stay with him. The following year of struggling to convince myself of this merely confirmed my first instinct - that we had outgrown each other and clung together purely because it was safe, easy and familiar. But not healthy. Staying together was not good for either of us.

That letter from the doctor marked the beginning of months of invasive, painful, worrying and bloody procedures. My cervix was the front line of battle, with the doctors cutting away one day, only for the disease to fight back and regain its foothold the next. This microscopic battle within my cells mirrored the battle within my marriage. With every step to cement it, came another reason for it to crumble.


So at the end of February the following year I finally said it was over. This was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, knowing there would be no winners whatever we did, least of all the children. As the battle to save my marriage ended, so did the battle to stave off the cancer. At the beginning of March I was called in to the hospital to speak to the doctor.

The doctors had lost. The cancer had won.

Before being told, I remember them asking if I had anyone with me, so I knew it was bad news. I had no one with me. I was alone. The ‘abnormal cells’ were now full blown cancer. I was informed the situation was such that I would lose my cervix, my uterus and my ovaries. The doctor then said he could book me in for three weeks time - the 26th March. I asked, ‘What for?’ He said the hysterectomy, the operation to remove everything. I was in shock. I had walked in that room with ‘abnormal cells’, and was leaving with cancer - and a major operation booked for THREE WEEKS TIME!

Cancer and splitting up with my husband was not all this month had thrown at me. We were having to sell the house. I now had to spend the next three weeks clearing all my belongings out, getting rid of furniture, sorting through eighteen years of my life, and preparing to move into my mother’s - with my two children. All the while trying to prepare mentally, physically and practically for the operation.


The separation had left me with very few friends. People I had been close with for twenty years, family I had shared half my life with, and my best friend for my entire adult life, had all gone. Even those who had not ‘picked a side’ just avoided me. I was facing a life threatening disease and was told by people I had loved ‘I hope you die’.

This was horrific at the time, exacerbated by my feeling I deserved it. I know now I didn’t. But worse, in a way, is the lasting effects of this treatment, of this betrayal, of this abandonment. No longer am I the naturally outgoing friendly person I was. I struggle to trust, struggle to believe anyone likes me, I feel insecure, worry that any friends I do make don’t really like me. If people I considered friends for twenty years could drop me overnight, then how could I trust anyone?

And so it was that six years ago I found myself lying in a hospital bed, alone but for visits from my mother and my dearest friend Siân, having lost my husband, friends, family, home, my entire life as I knew it. Plus I’d lost my cervix, uterus and ovaries, and with them the ability to have more children. The cancer had all been cut away, leaving me feeling hollowed out - figuratively and literally. The next few months, few years, were so hard at times I simply didn’t think I could make it.

But there was one shining light throughout: one friend I had, who - ironically - I was pushed closer to because of people’s reaction to our friendship. Although he lived 80 miles away he gave such care and support throughout the worst time of my life. Even with enormous hate and misplaced anger being directed at him, he still stood by me. The friendship turned to love, and I had the strongest most caring support to help me through the coming years. He saved my life. Again, and again, and again.


It is only now, six years later, that I can really talk about that time. I am scarred for life on my body and my mind. I learnt so much about myself, about other people, about what matters. Knowing there were times I was lying on the floor screaming and crying at the weight of everything (and I have only really scraped the surface here of all that happened) but that I got through it, gives me great strength.

This artwork is the first I have done about all this, but I’m sure there will be more.

It shows my pregnant body, limp, lifeless. My new body, my new self, is lifting and reaching up, escaping from the old, from the past.

The gentle swathes of cloth both hide the scars of surgery, and bind the two selves together. They cover all elements of my body’s femininity, symbolising the loss of those parts that make me ‘female’.

The eyes are looking up and out, at something, at a future I cannot see. But the need to reach in that direction is still strong, still worth the struggle.

The form itself has bird-like qualities, the spreading of wings. This helps create the feeling of release and freedom. But this bird is bound and tied, caught within a netting of its own creation. Will I ever be truly free?

The overall form also mimics the female reproductive system, the cervix, uterus and ovaries I lost. The brightest part of the image being where the cervix would be, highlighting the root of it all, where it all stemmed from.

There is more to say, about that time and about this artwork. But this is all I can say for now. Hopefully it can do all it needs to for now, and can give a sense of hope to anyone else whose life has fallen apart.

    Bespoke sizes and finishes are available, please contact me for details. All art prints are carefully profiled for fantastically accurate and consistent reproductions using giclée printing techniques.

    Hahnemühle German Etching (310gsm) is a premium fine art paper with a velvety surface perfect for archival quality reproductions. Hahnemühle German etching prints are part of our Eco and Vegan collections. The velvety matte surface is optimised for high-contrast prints and works brilliantly for limited editions. This vegan certified paper has a warm white hue providing a perfect surface for reproducing paintings, lithographs and fine art photography.

    Frame Materials

    Created from high-quality wood, milled with simple clean lines and presented with a satin finish. Includes an off-white mount that will not discolour or fade with age. - Simple, elegant design - Premium, fine art paper with a gently textured surface - Handmade by specialist picture framers - FSC certified off-white mat / window mount - Delivered ready for hanging


    Prints sized A4 or smaller will come in an envelope; all other sizes will come in a cardboard tube with recycled plastic ends.

    Please note that if you order two different products they will likely come in two separate packages as they may be made at different places.


    Please note the sizes for the mounted and framed prints are frame sizes, so the prints will be smaller, 8"x8" in the 10"x10" frame and 16"x16" in the 20"x20" frame.

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