I received this card from Dr. Timothy Lapham and his wonderful medical team at the Wound Care Clinic in Leesburg, Virginia.
It reminded me that paper, art, and enlightenment have been my co-companions on a path over the past year and a half for which I was totally unprepared.
When I first launched Beverly Jones, Paper Traveler, I intended to travel the world, buying awesome paper goods internationally to sell locally, taking lovely photographs, and selling my cards and art prints around the globe. Last year, however, I received the news that I had multiple myeloma -- a blood cancer -- and my journey was significantly diverted.
My weeks soon filled with chemotherapy treatments, additional visits to specialists to combat the many side effects associated with treatment, skyrocketing blood glucose levels (my diabetes was affected by the steroid medications I took), and extreme fatigue. It was a very rough time.
It was also a very enlightening time. I processed my jumbled emotions and feelings through art, creating dreamy, psychedelic works, sometimes at 3 o'clock in the morning (those doggone steroids again!). While some of the images were pretty, I made some really awful stuff too. What I discovered was that it didn't matter -- good or bad, my desire to create was the thing that was most important. For years I had struggled with crippling anxiety about my work, wondering if I should even continue with my business. After my multiple myeloma diagnosis, in a matter of weeks, that anxiety was gone. I realized that life is short, and I needed to get busy following my passion for art. It was a tremendous breakthrough moment for me.
A very positive person, Mark Andrekovich, gave me the best tip to aid me in my process. Mark suggested that I create a looseleaf binder to hold all of my medical documents. I used a big binder to hold everything, but also created a sleeker binder that I carried everywhere with me. It contained my appointment schedule, current medications, most current test results, and important addresses and phone numbers. I inserted pages of my art prints inside and on the outside cover, and they brought moments of joy and inspiration even on the most horrible days.
As my body got more used to the chemotherapy and my side effects lessened, I was able to get back to my morning walks, discovering new images to incorporate into my designs. I hope they will inspire others to be brave and courageous, too.
After 24 weeks of chemotherapy, I underwent a stem cell transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I spent three weeks in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and many more weeks as an outpatient and several months recovering at home. Art was there to cheer me again, this time in the form of warm, loving get well cards and notes from friends and family.
I'm finally getting back to my old life -- I'm once again busy with art markets, pop-up shops, and more -- and I use the insights I discovered along my unexpected path to create new works to share.
After everything I went through, I found that side effects from the maintenance meds I'm on still creep up here and there, hence the sweet card from Dr. Lapham and his crew. I'm still on the multiple myeloma path, which ultimately is good, because that means I'm still alive! (How's that for a silver lining?) While myeloma is very treatable, it is not yet completely curable. So... while I still intend to share with you stories of retail shops that I find across the country and around the world, and photos from my morning walks, I'll also include tales from the medical path I'm still on, as it continues to inform the work that I do. I hope you enjoy the ride!