The famed artist Tracey Emin who not only pioneered a wondrous style of modern art but also became a pioneer of female empowerment, has opened up in a new interview about beating cancer.
Emin was speaking with The Guardian as she aims to rebuild her life following life-saving surgery. As part of her recovery, Emina has been sharing some unfiltered self-portraits giving us an accurate reflection of life after an illness we rarely let ourselves acknowledge.
Speaking with Jonathan Jones, the singer opened up about the confining nature of cancer. “Now I’ve got a terrible pain in my legs, it’s unbearable,” she says, explaining why their conversation had to be delayed. “That’s why I’ve been in bed. I’m determined to go for a walk later because I hardly ever go out. I have a urostomy bag, so I have a major disability. The more well I get, the more annoying it is. Previously it was all right because I was on morphine. But now I want to do things and I can’t.”
The surgery that saved her life was a massive one. The artist had contracted squamous cell bladder cancer and has now had her uterus, ovaries, lymph nodes, urethra and parts of her colon and vagina removed as part of her recovery, revealing to Newsnight that she is now cancer-free.
Why does Emin think she managed to get cancer-free? “Fucking luck, number one,” she muses with her unflinching candour. “Number two, getting a good diagnosis and prognosis really fast. The other thing was: Covid was happening, and most people weren’t going to the doctors or hospital, weren’t having checkups. I just felt so unwell, just thought, really, this is not right. And then the surgeon I had was fantastic. And I had robots! The robots were pretty nifty. The robots can go places and do things that human hands can’t.”
Throughout the interview, Emin provides a frank assessment of her situation. Using her unwavering eye to capture some of the most poignant images of the experience, it would seem that Emin is using her art to exorcise some of the most traumatic moments of her life.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been,” she tells Jones when faced with another chance at life. “There are things I was scared of before that I’m not scared of any more. That makes you happier and more content as a person. I’m thinking about getting some kittens – or a dog.”