This article was also published on THRIVE GLOBAL
The word cancer evokes a different reaction from everyone. Stephanie Visser has been on her own artist journey all the while defying the disease. The saying “art heals” rings true for her. “Painting has always been a refuge for me,” said Visser, who painted between each of her seven surgeries. “I am more determined than ever to say what I want to say. My awareness of limited time to get it done and leave something of import behind is pushing me like crazy.”
Stephanie Visser with her work
Visser’s initial diagnosis came in September of 2013. An unusual tumor was found on her chest wall which came from a simple basal cell carcinoma. It had traveled into her body destroying skin and tissue. Since it was in close proximity to her heart, the doctors reacted quickly. Visser was lucky – it was non metastatic which meant she was able to avoid going through chemo.
She thought it was all behind her when she had a car accident in July of 2016. She was rear ended by a commercial dump truck which took out the back of her car. After visiting her doctor, she was told she needed two more surgeries due to the damage her seat belt created on the site of her previous carcinoma surgery. She has taken it all in stride, despite a year-long fight with her insurance company.
Stephanie Visser, Inception Series, Untitled 6, 72 x 48, Acrylic Stained on raw linen
She said she was angry at first, but continued to paint throughout it all. “I think there is a peace in it that is healing and soothing. Never do I come away from the studio unaffected. Doesn’t mean I am always happy with the day’s work or the results, but the body itself works out emotions just in the act of doing.” Visser said it’s the only place where her mind stops, and she can allow something else to take over. “For me, I disappear…or I should say my personality disappears. My body is there working. I am analyzing what I am doing and why, what is the next color or brush stroke needed, but the me that is the most interior me is now operating it all.”
When asked what is the best way for friends to relate to someone with cancer, she stressed that she was more comfortable when her friends acted and treated her normally. “Illness can be isolating. You miss the ordinariness of friends and family just talking about their day or their problems or their kids.” She also went on to say for those embarking on this same journey, that each person heals differently. She found she had to be kind to herself. “It’s not just the physical healing…it’s the psychic healing that has to happen too. Especially when you realize you will never be the same. Physical scars and physical imperfections are hard to deal with, but they do heal and you do adjust to them. It’s the spiritual and soulful healing that comes much slower. And often people don’t understand that. Especially when you present as healed on the outside. The inside wounds are still sometimes gaping holes.”
Stephanie Visser, Perseus Series, Untitled 2, 74 x 57, Acrylic Mixed Media on Canvas
Visser continues to create while anticipating yet one more surgery in June. She agreed that it puts a renewed perspective on one’s life. “I am most inspired these days by truth. And that just means that when I look at work, I respond, not from my mind, but from my heart and soul…one can always tell when an artist has put their heart on the page.” To find out more about Visser, see her website at http://stephanievisser.com/