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Robin Cruz McGee


Insufficient Substitution

This piece of art won Patron's Mention award in the art exhibit Think Pink

Art: Insufficient Substitution by Artist Robin Cruz McGee
My mother Died from breast cancer 18 years ago. She was 60 when she was diagnosed with the disease. I remember talking to her not long before and she had told me how she was looking forward to my dad’s retirement so they could spend the years together traveling to all the places that they had talked about and never visited.

After we found out, there was the first operation, the mastectomy, and then the tests. Invasion of the lymph nodes, but the doctor said that he was hopeful that a round of chemo would take care of that. He was partly right. Devastating as the chemo was, she dealt with it unflinchingly, although it appeared that she had aged 10 years those first few months. I never heard a complaint.

My dad retired early and they made some travel plans for when she was recovered enough from the chemo. Even though the cancer appeared to be in remission, there was still an air of immediacy surrounding my parents’ lives. Schedules were altered, visits from the children and grandchildren doubled then tripled, all of us wondering if the monster that was taking our mother had been beaten or just driven off for a time. At the three year mark, we began to feel some sense of relief, that maybe we could look past the present and forward to the years passing, with my mom enjoying the grandchildren and the well deserved years of being together with my father in his retirement. They took a trip to Europe, something that they had looked forward to for a very long time.

Four years had passed since The Day. That was how we referred to it - The Day. Another Day arrived. Blood tests revealed the cancer cells had reappeared and that cancer had been found in her other breast. She had a second mastectomy and another round of chemo. Good, that bought some time. As soon as she was well enough (well being a relative term here) they left on a road trip. Around the country they went, zig-zagging up to New England, across to Washington State, down to California and across the South. The unspoken thought was that there was little time left. They would see what they could. I was living in Louisiana at the time. When I saw my mom on the final leg of their trip (fateful words), I was shocked that this vital person had become this frail woman with the cane. Still, I recognized the smile and welcomed her with open arms. My mom fought a long, hard battle for 5 years but in the end, we lost her. I was there in the hospital when she died. I was the last person that she talked to. She said “I love you, Robin.” That was the day before she died. The last thing she said just before dying was “Mom?” in the tone that she used for her own mother. We were all there.

My mother died of breast cancer, not because she didn’t get the tests, but because the films had been read incorrectly for 3 years before she was diagnosed. The technology has changed so much in the last two decades that what happened to her doesn’t have to happen to anyone anymore.

Do your self breast exams. Get your mammograms when you should. If you do get cancer, get second opinions. Get all of your follow-up tests, and have the results double checked. This piece is repousse copper, fine silver and pink quartz. It is mounted on a sheet of glass in a black frame. What this piece is about the obvious, that a replacement breast is second best to say the least, and more subtle, that you can never be replaced to those who love you. Please take care of yourself, and do the right things.

This work is copper with rose quartz and fine silver.

Detail Image

Detail Image for art Insufficient Substitution


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