Burton cancer survivor makes art, finds silver linings

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comMay 31, 2012 

Even cancer has a silver lining.

So says breast-cancer survivor Arnetta "Weezy" Devlin of the Habersham community in Burton.

"You have to take what you have and do your best with it," she said Thursday, sitting in a desk at Beaufort Middle School on one of the last days of a 41-year career as a math and special-education teacher.

"A lot of it is how you look at it," she said.

Devlin was 56 and had lived here only six months when she heard the three most dreaded words: "You have cancer."

She remained calm even though she'd watched her father, grandmother and mother-in-law die of cancer. Maybe it was because she's seen the heavy hand of tragedy throughout the career of her husband, John, a retired fire chief. Maybe it was because both her parents and a grandfather were doctors, and she'd seen suffering and healing all her life.

"My first thought was, 'OK, what are we going to do about it?'"

Devlin had 100 percent of her treatment in Beaufort. Dr. Daniel Ripley discovered the aggressive cancer in a routine annual mammogram. Dr. Neil S. McDevitt put a fast plan of attack in motion. Dr. Cynthia Bryant recommended a lumpectomy over a radical mastectomy. And she remains under the care of Dr. Majd Chahin, medical oncologist at the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Keyserling Cancer Center.

Devlin is cancer-free 5 1/2 years after the diagnosis.

"This journey is not without rewards," she said.

Fellow teachers had her back and would do anything for her, she said. She missed only two weeks of school.

"It's been such an opportunity to meet people that I would not have met otherwise," she said. "People have been so giving, so wonderful, so caring, even if they didn't know me. So pleasant. Always wishing me well."

On Sunday, Devlin will speak at a Cancer Survivors Day celebration at the Keyserling Cancer Center.

A piece of her artwork will be on display as part of the Lilly Oncology on Canvas traveling exhibit presented by Lilly Oncology and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.

Her piece is a quilted three-dimensional work called "Attitude." She sewed her own Easter outfit as a fourth-grader and has been quilting for 30 years, locally with the Sea Island Quilters.

"Attitude" features our beach and our water. Waves are dark and fairly angry at the bottom, with lighter, more rolling waves above. Finally, there are calm waves, and the sun has come out.

And if you look closely at the clouds, you'll see that they are stitched with silver linings.

Related content

  1. Lilly Oncology on Canvas
  2. National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service