CATHERINE BURRIS

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: March 11, 2002

Transfigured
acrylic on canvas
30 x 50 x 2 inches
Columbus, Indiana
1994

By December of 1993 my mother, my dearest friend, was dying, defeated by a second round of oral cancer. She was a reader; she couldn't read anymore. She loved to cook; she couldn't eat anymore. I wanted her to hug me, and she was weak. Where was the woman who had always told me, "We come from hardy stock?"

Then the unthinkable happened: I was discovered to have breast cancer. We were sharing something as mother and daughter: hers an old enemy, mine a new one. My mother's pain helped me to deal with what was happening to me.

She died on the first warm, sunny day in February, 1994, the 13th. I was by her side. I like to think she said,"Here I go! I've had it, and I'm flying away," off to join my father, who had died of cancer in December 1971.

I knew that I had to incorporate this enemy into my life - not by choice, but, by necessity - I had to make the unreal seem real. I took the enemy and placed it in the midst of something I love: my art. I am a survivor of breast cancer because of modern medicine and because of the strength my mother knew I had.

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