Cancer survivors celebrate their health with art

astice@islandpacket.comJune 3, 2012 

When Habersham resident Arnetta "Weezy" Devlin would wait for her appointments at the Keyserling Cancer Center, she couldn't put down a coffee table book of art made by people who also were touched by the disease.

The Lilly Oncology on Canvas book was filled with artwork and writing by cancer patients and their caregivers, and was drawn from a competition and exhibition that depict the cancer journey.

On Sunday, Devlin stood before a group of fellow survivors at Beaufort Memorial Hospital's cancer center with her own piece of art on display beside her that had been chosen for the biennial exhibition.

"Usually I have an audience of captive seventh-graders in front of me," joked Devlin, who will retire from teaching math at Beaufort Middle School this year after more than 40 years as an educator.

She made her piece using sewing and quilting techniques she had been perfecting since she was a girl, she told the crowd. It showed a sun shining through clouds with silver linings over a sea of green waves - each element symbolizing a part of her diagnosis of breast cancer and recovery, and representing others who battled the disease and lost.

In the hallway hung prints of other work in the traveling Lilly Oncology exhibit, which tours hospitals, cancer centers and patient advocacy group events every two years.

Sunday also marked the 25th annual National Cancer Survivor's Day. The exhibit and the event held together marked a celebration for survivors, said Dr. Majd Chahin, medical director of Beaufort Memorial Hospital's Oncology Services.

"We're so formal in our everyday, everyone is working hard and fighting hard," Chahin said. "That time we get together is more business. I think it's kind of neat to step back, for everyone, and enjoy each other and enjoy success - the fact that we all made it."

As for Devlin, she is looking forward to enjoying her retirement - which starts in a week when school ends - and staying healthy, even though she knows she may have to confront cancer again.

"I hope to get to do more of this," she said, standing next to her canvas.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.

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