At last, soon we will all be thawing out and embracing the sweetness of spring.  I thought I would never defrost this winter. Eyeing up those blossoming trees and green lawns is clearly nature commanding us to spring clean our health.  There is nothing quite like the arrival of spring. It’s a shot of Vitamin B-12 zinging straight into nature. A renewal of attitude and spirit breaks through at this time of year, just like the shoots on trees.

For cancer patients like myself, spring is a new beginning. My ovarian cancer was diagnosed in the month of June meaning summer was all about recuperating from an arduous hospital visit. Winter was next and included many grueling 6-hour drips of chemo. Then I spent the rest of winter hibernating with little hope and lots of physical pain.  I so longed to sit in my garden on my old webbed aluminum lawn chair that didn’t hurt my bones and soak up the sunshine. I no longer had a view of a cement parking lot from my hospital window. Nature helped me cope with returning to my new normal. I loved listening to the birds sing while performing acrobatic flights in the sky.  New buds on the leafless branches made me feel positive about life. With my mood no longer in the bleak dungeon of winter, my heart lifted like the shrills of those happy birds. When the power of nature surrounds you, it also seeps inside of you, amazingly energizing you like a cup of ginger tea: brightly colored, warming, and radiating energy to revive the body.

As I took baby steps in my backyard, trying to gain my strength back, I began to let go in my head of what I did not need (physical and mental habits) and bring in positive thoughts. Time to get that dust bin of negativity all cleaned out. There was something about sticking my hand in the soil and crunching bits of dirt that made me realize my body needed time to de-stress and make changes. My new buzz word was now “simplify.” This meant seriously re-evaluate people in my life and trim the fat. I wanted my work and relationships to be nothing less than positive.  Like unwanted weeds in my garden, some had to go. No negativity allowed this time. Beating cancer was far more important than dealing with people caught up in the narcissism of their lives. The circle of my life would now evolve around love, kindness, healing and paying attention to what really counts in life.

Taking long walks helped my chemo brain tremendously. I still cannot multi-task but those walks and being outdoors gave bursts of ideas to my creativity. My creative side was on steroids. I had an insatiable appetite to write short stories and create art. Both of these projects had to be honest extensions of myself. After cancer, the veil of embarrassment leaves and I could tell my tales. The stories had to be truthful and my art outrageous.  Art helped me cope with cancer’s emotional complications by putting my efforts into my creation.  I was able to express how I felt rather than talk about it, and it was a process of feeling and creating; less thinking and performing the “should be” and “must do’s.”

Even though growing up in New Orleans imbued in me a great imagination, we all still struggle with wanting to fit in or falling in line with conformity, but cancer makes you stand out. You look different, feel different, and have to act differently to mind your health and energy levels. Art allows me to stand out in a different way, and I embrace the fun, extreme, and eclectic sides of my personality and express them joyfully.

Speaking of sticking out, my hair loss from cancer was terrifying and by sheer luck, I found a wonderful woman in California, Laurie Andreoni, who created fabulous turbans with incredible fabrics. We’ve never met, but she is a dear friend. So inspired was I by becoming a turban-rocking diva, I wanted my handmade Voodoo dolls to wear one as well. My Voodoo dolls were splashed with discarded New Orleans treasures, wax-print batik fabrics and a vibe of good juju meaning “good health.” I wanted all my art to be whimsical with a twist of the weird. I didn’t care what people thought, I just put my heart and soul into my art, causing me to thankfully forget about my life span. My shoe sculptures harken back to fond memories of the Krewe of Muses parades, but rather than being passed out from elaborate floats, they stand tall as works of art for bookcases and coffee tables. With fabric, sequins and a new hot-flue gun, cancer delivered me to my authentic self. Each of my art pieces are meant to bring laughter, fun and good health.

If you are coping with cancer, be gentle on yourself and seriously concentrate, even meditate on what matters most in your life. Cancer gives us an opportunity to change things in a big way. Just like sprouts from plants in spring, we too can have new sprouts that will de-stress our bodies and nourish our souls. Dive into spring, it is the most beautiful time of year. A time for renewal. Smell the earth, sing with nature, and realize what a treasure our landscape is and how it serves the human spirit.