Anne Shewring was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. At the time she wrote about her treatment and her life in a blog called ‘Anne is Keeping Busy’.

In a special series for Live Better With, Anne looks back at that time and shares her thoughts and experiences once again. (Read part 1 here; part 2 here and part 3 here.) In this instalment, Anne discovers the consoling power of art in London’s National Gallery…

September 22 2011 – ‘The psychological scars never really heal’

First things first, the bite on RMD’s leg is better. People have been asking, although I am reliably informed that, “the psychological scars never really heal.”

Also, we now have a cleaner, Amala from Romania. She arrived with a range of products of her own, to match the huge bag of bottles and cloths I had purchased in anticipation. Not sure she was overly impressed with my choices, picking up each one and sniffing in a slightly disapproving manner.

Not that I’m complaining. She had only been in the flat five minutes when she had her head in the oven, in a good way. (Her job is made somewhat easier by our oven being not much used for cooking. I refer readers to a tweet from RMD last night: “Ah, the unmistakable, appetite-quickening, mouth-watering sound of outer packaging being removed and film lids being pierced.”)

I suppose having a cleaner is a little anti-keeping busy. If I were truly keeping busy, I’d be doing my own cleaning. Completely fair enough. I’m choosing to go with the alternative view that this is the time to be good to oneself and also, in my case, to AD and RMD, who could probably do without wading through waves of dust balls in order to bring me the many cups of tea and bonbons that I will soon be demanding.

But here’s an actual keeping busy activity. I went to the National Gallery, bought their guidebook and saw several paintings on the tour, including The Arnolfini Portrait (1434), by Jan van Eyck.

Jan van Eyck – Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife (1434). National Gallery


I learned: (1) Mrs Arnolfini is not pregnant, but holding up her full-skirted dress in the contemporary fashion, showing off that she can afford lots of extra cloth; (2) that van Eyck is doing something new and groundbreaking with oil paints.

I also saw The Wilton Diptych (1395-9), which I like because: (1) I enjoy the word “diptych”; and (2) those angels have such enormous wings –  they remind me of the lady version of Brian Blessed’s Hawkmen in Flash Gordon.

The Wilton Diptych, c. 1395-9. The National Galllery


Coincidently, and very much in the keeping busy spirit, thanks to my young friend, Aggie, last week I had my nails painted the same colour as those frocks. Word has it that chemo causes odd things to happen to your fingernails which painting them may prevent. Unfortunately, not being used to painted nails, the polish was chipping off in a few days.

Another good reason to have a cleaner.




Part 5 of Anne is Keeping Busy will appear on the Live Better With blog soon. If you would like to talk about any of the issues raised in Anne’s cancer diary, why not share your thoughts and experiences with the Live Better With cancer community.