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Battling Breast Cancer: Survivor Journeys Reflected Through Art

The journey to overcome breast cancer is a road that no woman should travel alone. And to share their stories of survival, women from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s Breast Cancer Support Group used the canvas.

Members of the group created works of art to express their battle with cancer and the joy of life after beating it. An art exhibit showcased these works on Oct. 8, 2009 in the Rotunda of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s Main Campus at 2727 West Holcombe Boulevard.

Three of the artists were on hand to share their tumultuous struggle to battle despair, but with the help of a welcoming support system, they gained the hope and strength they needed for survival.

Finding Her Inner Strength

Dorothy Stuppy of Missouri City, Texas photographed the spiral artwork hanging in the Rotunda of Kelsey-Seybold’s Main Campus during the Breast Cancer Support Group’s Art Exhibit. As a breast cancer survivor, the shape has a special meaning to her.

"It was like my world was falling down around me,” said Dorothy of her reaction to her January 2005 diagnosis. “I’ve always been a person who wants control of my life, but this was something I couldn’t do by myself.”

Dorthy Stuppy

She was challenged by a friend to get in touch with her inner strength. She likens the journey she traveled to find that force to a spiral.

“The closer to the center you get, the farther away you get from the distractions of the world,” Dorothy said. “With a spiral, you have to come back out the way you went in. But you come back out stronger.”

The fresh perspective on her battle with breast cancer opened her mind to several changes in her life. She came to the realization that it was OK to ask for help.

When given the collage assignment in her Breast Cancer Support Group at Kelsey-Seybold, Dorothy began the process by flipping through magazines for inspiration. She knew color would play an important part in conveying emotion.

“It crystallizes and clarified the experience for me,” Dorothy said. “I didn’t start out to do that picture; it just happened.”

A New Lease On Life

At age 38, Frances Arzu looked around the Kelsey-Seybold Breast Diagnostic Center only to see that she was the youngest patient in a waiting room of post-menopausal women. Nobody looked like her.

But Dr. Treneth Baker, her surgeon, told her not to let her concerns handicap her. She took this advice to heart.

The Sugar Land resident wants people to see that life can be great after receiving a positive diagnosis. Her openness to try new things and explore the opportunities life has given her are reflected in her artwork.

Frances Arzu

“Breast cancer is such an individual disease,” says Frances who, at the time she created the piece, was celebrating the completion of her breast reconstruction. “The picture was about me and my journey with breast cancer, before and after.”

A four-year survivor, Frances is now an active advocate of breast cancer awareness and is an active member of an all-breast cancer survivor competitive dragon boat racing team, Pink Phurree.

“My life now is different than before I was diagnosed,” Frances said. “I was not a pink person, but now, pink is my favorite color.”

New Friends Offer Support

In 2008, when Bellaire area resident Mercy Siaotong was diagnosed with breast cancer, no one was around for her to share her distressing news. Her husband was out with her son, and when she called her relatives, nobody was home to answer the phone.

Unable to contain her emotion, she broke down in tears. But when the crying finally stopped, she composed herself and prayed.

“God, I don’t like this, but if this is what you’re giving me, I’ll accept it,” Mercy prayed. “But I don’t like it.”

Mercy Siaotong

Before beginning chemotherapy, she joined the Kelsey-Seybold Breast Cancer Support Group.

“It helped me tremendously,” said the two-year member. “You’re able to express your feelings, and you quickly find out that those feelings are normal. These women have experienced exactly what I am going through.”

Healing Through Art

Mercy Siaotong claims she’s not artistic. But when given magazines for her collage assignment, she was immediately drawn to the first photo she flipped to. It showed a group of women dancing rejoicingly in a circle and it reminded her of her friends in the Breast Cancer Support Group.

Her artwork represents the support she has through her family, friends, church, co-workers and the Breast Cancer Support Group at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.
If the cancer comes back, Mercy says she’s now equipped with the support system and mentality to handle it. What she’s learned, she is now able to pass on to others.

“It really made me stronger,” she says. “Life is good, so no matter what the day brings, rejoice and be glad in it.”