Gynae cancer meets art’s healing power

27 Oct 2021

Leading Australian artist, Sarah McDonald, breaks her silence on ‘the silent killer’ to start a conversation on gynecological cancer which plagued her family over five generations.

A professional artist for more than 20 years, Sarah donated her painting A Wild Autumn Bunch to WomenCan’s new fundraising initiative for gynecological cancer research, HonourHer.

“I never talk about my family history of ovarian cancer to my followers but when the HonourHer campaign came up I thought, I’m f---ing talking about this!”

Sarah has lost her great, great grandmother; great grandmother; grandmother; great aunty; and aunty to ovarian cancer.

“My mum was only the second woman in her family to see her 60th birthday. Her sister, Tessa, went really rapidly and it was terrible. Maybe she’d still be here if we knew more about ovarian cancer like we do with breast cancer thanks to funding, research, and awareness.”

With two daughters of her own, Sarah wants to see more hope for women with gynecological cancer.

“Thanks to improving research we learnt about the BRCA2 gene and my generation was able to stop it, manage it, and do something about it. We have a big family and even fathers can pass this gene onto daughters, so it’s really valuable we can access testing.”

Sarah’s painting is one of 40 unique artworks in the HonourHer online auction, with 50 percent of proceeds donated to urgently needed gynecological cancer research.

“The painting says a lot about the woman that I want to be. It is bold and strong and bright and uplifting. They’re character strengths and qualities that I want to be as a woman, a mother, a mentor and friend.”

She was also drawn to HonourHer because “art and health are two fields that should be together”.

“There are five generations of women in my family that have had and died from ovarian cancer…the silent killer. Art promotes healing in mental and physical health,” Sarah says from her experience as a Centre for Creative Health board member.

“Use creativity to express your pain, your experience or to release something. Art is a visual language that makes you feel good and gives your home a soul.”

Sarah also sees this in her art school where she teaches painting to more than 100 students.

“Quite a few people with cancer come for to sit and paint for therapy, mental health, and mindfulness. We also see ex-surgeons and doctors who want to keep using their hands and brains. They all love it.”

Sarah described herself as the “happiest person in the world”, being able to “paint, create and dance in the studio” to sell paintings in galleries across the country. It’s this warmth she hopes others feel when they look and connect to artworks in the HonourHer auction.

“People who buy art through HonourHer know they’re doing a good thing funding research but also give themselves joy. When someone loves my artwork as much as I’ve enjoyed making it – just wow! Hopefully we can raise the roof off this wonderful charity; there’s so many talented artists involved.”

A life-changing donation to WomenCan, will support pioneering research. To donate to gynaecological cancer research, click here.

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