ARTIST Jane Wiles gave a frank and humorous talk on her experience with cancer at the latest University of the Third Age (U3A) meeting at Settlers Park last Thursday.
Wiles was a lecturer for 15 years and at the age of 48 became a fulltime artist. In 2004 she moved to Bathurst where she started a gallery. When she was living in Johannesburg she ran personal growth workshops and has recently started a cancer supporters group in Bathurst.
"We just get together and share,” she said.
GOING STRONG: For artist Jane Wiles cancer has been another way through life, as she explained at Port Alfred's University of the Third Age last week Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD
"Everybody out there is dealing with it, it's not a tragedy. It can be a gift,” she said.
Her second husband found out he had cancer when he was 39. Wiles said when you are first diagnosed, everyone wants to help and has all kinds of advice. They visited a witchdoctor, drank their own urine, tried a paraffin concoction, had massages and reflexology and saw a Catholic priest.
She said cancer and death teaches you to let go about your rightness.
When she was diagnosed, Wiles had stage three cancer and believed then that she would die of breast cancer, and still does. She felt that she had lived a great life, been successful in her job and her three relationships.
"I thought, ‘I've done everything so I understand',” she said.
She admits she was still scared.
One of the things she found tricky were the different responses to her news. Everyone called and she said it became exhausting reassuring all these people.
Wiles went for chemo and had a double mastectomy. She said she felt more feminine than she had in years. She finished the chemo and got better. Moving to Bathurst to be in the bush and by the sea, Wiles lived six months to six months in between checkups. She was diagnosed again in 2008.
Throughout the whole experience she has been interested to try and to learn new things. After never having seen a cricket match in her whole life, she was invited to watch a one-day international between India and Australia.
"I thought I'd be dead by then, but then of course I wasn't so I had to go,” she said, causing much laughter.
She realized that we can all still live despite having a fatal disease. Despite her good sense of humour she has gloomy days as well.
Wiles finished her talk with two poems by American poet Mary Oliver, Roses and Maybe.
"We need to love more than we need to be loved,” Wiles pointed out during the question session.
Anne Williams will be giving the next U3A talk on July 26, on how to attract birds to your garden.