In February of 2022, we released our first Open Call: How might we recreate public health as art, letters, stories, and poetry? The following is the art submission of Renee George we received from this open call.
“There are thousands of cases of lung cancer in the US alone, and 20% of those cases belong to those who have never smoked. They never did anything to cause it, but when they get it, it’s a death sentence, non-smoker’s carcinoma. Even if it’s caught in the earliest stages, the life expectancy is shockingly low, but despite the horror, it’s rare and thus under-researched. Both the afflicted and their loved ones struggle with the sheer aggression of the disease. There’s no cure. There’s nothing to be done, but this is barely a condolence to those who stand over a lump of dirt, remembering the sound of agonized breaths. Non-smoker’s carcinoma claims thousands of victims every year in this very same fashion, but its presence is still rare. There’s simply not enough money in researching its cure, so patients are left with the agonizing sentence: “We’ll make sure you’re comfortable.” In my own case, I lost my mother to this disease within the span of 3.5 weeks. She was a week away from her 62nd birthday. All I wanted was a way to at least have a reliable treatment to give her more time, and there are countless others who wanted the same. This matters because there is no way to cure it or even effectively treat it, and in our age of advanced cancer treatments, that’s simply unacceptable.”
“The painting I made doesn’t call for any grand action. It doesn’t concern itself with petitions or appeals. The purpose is simply to comfort the ones caught in the crossfire. In the face of hopelessness, it’s hard to find joy. How can one celebrate a person’s life when it was ripped from under their feet? My painting “Angel’s Breath” was a way to console myself after my own mother’s untimely death. I used it as a reminder to myself that she’s no longer in pain and that she could return to her homeland of Hawaii. I find solace in knowing that she’s found her place among the mountains and ocean and one day, when I go to the land of my ancestors, she will be there too and will whisper to me through the lapping waves. This life is not the end, and death is the beginning of eternal peace. Every inch you climb up a mountain of suffering brings you closer to the relief of the sea-breeze. When there’s nothing you could have done, it was enough to climb the mountain with them and send them on their way.”
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