The art of living with illness 

11/04/2011 00:00 

A series of unusual paintings which capture a patient’s experience of living with cancer go on display this month.

Getting through: It is a happy painting about overcoming illness, the resilience of the human spirit, a celebration. The birds r

Getting through: "A happy painting about overcoming illness, the resilience of the human spirit, a celebration. The birds represent all the consultants, doctors, angels as nurses ….family, friends ..  and everyone who looked after me. I wanted to paint a yellow painting like the sunshine,” says artist John Edwards

The exhibition “The Art of Living with Illness” explores the reflections of artist John Edwards after he was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease in 1996. The exhibition is from 8 April- 22 June at the street gallery at University College Hospital.

He said: “My paintings became very important in externalising what I was going through and surviving it. As I came through the critical period I realised my paintings were about living with the illness – and how it changed my life. I found out things about myself I never realised and I live my life differently now.”

Mr Edwards underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for penile cancer and secondary cancers at Barts Hospital and The Royal Marsden.

Following an improvement in his health, Mr Edwards has been actively involved in helping others with cancer: he sits on a university advisory panel on penile cancer treatment ( and gives talks to young patients. With his new found energy he has developed and is Curator of the ambitious new community art's project, "The Never Ending Mural"

He added: “I understand how cancer treatment can be overwhelming, you can feel lost among it and I tell them there is value in externalising your experiences through painting or writing. On realising that cancer was in my life I began to ask myself how I could change things, how I could help myself. We all have choices in the way we live and how we accept treatment. We can participate and give help to those caring for us.

“Since my illness I am no longer as preoccupied with wealth or status and am more content, more able to be myself. The quality of my life is more important than longevity”

His paintings and captions are also published in an acclaimed book “How cancer saved my life “which he describes as a gentle story of survival. “A story of how cancer can threaten the body but doesn’t have to threaten the spirit.”


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