Personal Post

Stick out your tongue

its malign!
unveiling the truth
death is but a mask
nightmares of mutilation
obsession with the tongue
at the dentist
the dentist
drawing the implant
Dr. Pedro Sanchez E ingunza - head and neck surgeon

About two months ago I was diagnosed of tongue cancer. When I got the result of the biopsis, the world as I knew it, collapsed. From then on, everything happened so fast that I had hardly time to digest, less to find some meaning to all of it. Till my brother, who came from Switzerland, brought me a used digital compact Leica - a gift from a friend which turned out to be the perfect camera to document this totally new phase in my life. In the following weeks, while I was preparing for surgery, going back and forth between the INEN (National Institute of Neoplasic Diseases) and the Center of Odontology, I started documenting the process, overwhelmed as I was by the apocalyptic scenes inside the INEN and the manifestations of nature's rebirth, as we were entering a most wonderful springtime. All of a sudden I knew like never before that this body is really, really mortal: It was like Life itself had slapped me hard in the face, urging me to wake up and see the truth. And truth hurts, yes, but only as long as you don't dare to stare it in the face. What is death after all? It is the big unknown. And we are so afraid of the unknown. And yet, hasn't it been like this always? We have never ever known anything for sure, we have never ever had the slightest clue of what we are getting into. This became now cristal clear. Whenever I came to a conclusion, something happened that proved it as a lie. So this story changad with every turn, and around every corner was a surprise, showing me over and over that there is no security to be found in words and objects, but that the only unchanging reality is the seeing-knowing of whatever appears. For instance this sentence: "I have cancer" what does it really mean? For I don't know who I am, since I change from moment to moment and so does cancer. Cancer? Who knows what that really is? Nobody knows what is going to happen next, and anything, absolutely anything can happen. Life is an unfatomable miracle...

In the meantime, I have been operated. The surgery took 9 hours. 40% of my tongue has been cut away and replaced by an implant from a piece of muscle of my arm. It is most astonishing what modern surgery is able to do. 3 weeks have past since then, and I am back home and recovering steadily, though I still lack my usual energy and get tired quite fast. Fortunately, no metastasis have been found. Never the less, next week the second round of treatment will start: radiation therapy... yet another unknown.

The photos shown here are just a small selection of an ongoing photographic diary along with some texts, which I am printing and pastimg into a notebook...

30 responses

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak said (4 Nov 2010):

    Thank you for sharing your personal powerful story and pictures. My nephew's wife Dana (late 30s) was diagnosed with same in Sept stage 4. She is recovering from surgery and starts radiation and chemo the end of Nov. I will keep you both close in my thoughts.

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (4 Nov 2010):

    An outstanding story and yes, one never knows what is around the corner, I have discovered so much over the past 6 months I feel wizened! Disease takes over quickly and the recovery is often slow but one has to have the will to overcome. Good luck my friend!!!!!!!

  • d kelly

    d kelly gave props (4 Nov 2010):

    claudia, i had no idea of your ordeal. i will think of you everyday with thoughts of healing and love for you.

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (4 Nov 2010):

    Dearest Claudia, I am so happy to hear from you, again. I imagined you were off on some magical journey.....turns out I was correct. My love & blessings, ~ M

  • Michael Van der Tol

    Michael Van der Tol (Deleted) said (4 Nov 2010):

    I will be sending positive energy all the way from the west coast of Canada as you go through the next phase of your recovery. Take care Claudia.

  • Pilar Coll i Gatells

    Pilar Coll i Gatells said (4 Nov 2010):

    Claudia, que te puedo decir que ya no sepas. . . Estoy muy contenta de tu estado de ánimo y la fuerza que nos vas transmitiendo a través de tus imágenes y palabras.Estoy segura que superaremos juntas este momento.Un abrazo muy fuerte.

  • Caroline Penris

    Caroline Penris said (5 Nov 2010):

    I will think of you!

  • Llorenç Rosanes

    Llorenç Rosanes (Deleted) said (5 Nov 2010):

    Toda mi energía positiva está contigo desde el primer día. Espero que lo sepas. Y tu história es realmente dolorosa, para tí, tu familia y amigos. También es un motivo de superación.
    Voy a las fotos: Porqué la foto de la enfermera (en el dentista) y la luz ténue no está en blanco y negro? Ahí lo dejo...

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (5 Nov 2010):

    A most excellent Personal Post.

  • Konrad Ragnarsson

    Konrad Ragnarsson gave props (5 Nov 2010):

    Hi Claudia,hope you will do well in the radiation therapy and the cancer will go away.I know the feeling when you get the news from the doctor"Sorry to tell you this,but you have a cancer" I am still fighting mine now ,but thats another story! Just be positive and all will go well I am sure;-)

  • John Linton

    John Linton said (5 Nov 2010):

    The word cancer doesn't mean to me what it means to you for I have only had to deal with the removal of basal cell carcinomas. I wish you a speedy and complete recovery.

  • Lisa Boughter

    Lisa Boughter said (5 Nov 2010):

    I was hoping your absence was because you had been traveling and that you would dazzle us with photos upon your return; instead, you've brought us amazing images from what must be a terrifying personal journey. I was so happy to read that your recovery is going smoothly and that the cancer has not metastasized. ¡Te envío un fuerte abrazo!

  • Lise Utne

    Lise Utne said (5 Nov 2010):

    I'm glad you're photographing, Claudia, and great photos at that! Big hugs, and lots of positive energy, always!

  • Debrah Leonard

    Debrah Leonard (Deleted) gave props (5 Nov 2010):

    Dear Claudia, thank you for sharing your life with us. Prayers, healing thoughts, and light will be going your way.

  • Debrah Leonard

    Debrah Leonard (Deleted) gave props (5 Nov 2010):

    Keep sending photos our way....

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (5 Nov 2010):

    Wishing you the best, amazing docummentation and photos.

  • Jim Hart

    Jim Hart said (5 Nov 2010):

    it's no fun having cancer cut out of you -- thanks for sharing your story. good luck with your treatment, and please keep posting. i've really missed your photos.

  • Alexis - Now on Flickr

    Alexis - Now on Flickr gave props (5 Nov 2010):

    Every image in this story is a marvel. Just one facet of your gift as an alchemist. Abrazos.

  • claudia luthi

    claudia luthi said (5 Nov 2010):

    A thousand thanks to all of you, my dear friends - I am overwhelmed by your kind and loving responses! and hope to soon catch up with each nd every one of you...

  • Diane Peterson

    Diane Peterson said (6 Nov 2010):

    Truly amazing i get older I am constantly amazed at those around us that live life as if it were a dress rehersal..I will continue trying to live mine as if there were no tomorrow ..all we can do is be positive and see what tomorrow brings..each day is a unique and wonderful event! My very best to you..I have you in my thoughts..

  • Maria Mutch

    Maria Mutch (Deleted) gave props (6 Nov 2010):

    An incredible collection of images, and words. The physical realm can be so simple or so complex, depending--you're so right that we know, but not really, that everything is an unknown. These images help to pin feelings in place --thank you for sharing them, and your experience.

  • Michael Ellis

    Michael Ellis gave props (6 Nov 2010):

    Great photographs to document your experience! My best wishes to you and I hope your photography proves to be great therapy!

  • Simon Kossoff

    Simon Kossoff (Deleted) said (7 Nov 2010):

    Big big LOVE from me lovely Claudia. I send my best wishes and warmest thoughts to you. Your images are, and have always been, a huge pleasure and a massive inspiration. This is a wonderful collection here too X

  • ! Mario Scattoloni ¡

    ! Mario Scattoloni ¡ said (15 Nov 2010):

    Con mucho amor y que mejoras rapido de todo esta locura que la vida nos trae.

    We are not alone when it comes to this horrendous mystery known as cancer...we have all been touched by this grim reaper at some point or other... I personally know this from my youth by watching the demise of my own mother to cancer. We today are very fortunate though with the advances made in these areas of medical research.

    I know that if we all send you our positive vibes & energy it can only inspire hope that the love we all feel for you is so much bigger than the dis-eased passage you are travelling down right now.

    This is a very brave piece that you have written & documented for all to witness. As to what you say here Claudia it certainly awakens in us all to the reality of what we must all live with each & everyday of our lives.

    We will begin to light candles in prayer for your speedy

    Abrazos muy fuerte desde lejos,
    Mario y familia

  • Paul Andrews

    Paul Andrews gave props (16 Nov 2010):

    Oh dear, a worrying time, but it sounds like you are fighting which is good. Very best wishes to you in the weeks ahead. xx

  • Joerg Schlagheck

    Joerg Schlagheck gave props (17 Dec 2010):

    A fantastic story Claudia. It sure brings you and your struggle much closer. I hope it all works out to a complete recovery. You've got a long way to go before the truly unknown....

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak said (4 Jan 2011):

    Thinking of you Claudia and my wishes for a good new year...

  • Rogerio de Freitas

    Rogerio de Freitas said (27 Feb 2011):

    A powerful document of a photographer and woman of courage.
    Claudia Congratulations for this victory over the disease.
    Thank you for your inspiring strength

  • Tom Mertens

    Tom Mertens gave props (2 Apr 2011):

    Claudia, thank you for sharing. Your courage and sharing enriches us all.

  • Carol Holmes

    Carol Holmes gave props (9 Feb 2012):

    I do not know you, Claudia...but wish you complete recovery, and may you live a long happy healthy life and keep snapping those photos no matter what! Many blessings sent your way.

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