Cancer survivor's soft sculpture records a harsh journey of recovery

A young Central Queensland cancer survivor has charted her journey of survival through art, creating a fabric journal encased in its own fibre rebcage.

Brianna Brett’s embroidered fabric sculpture  Thymoma .

Brianna Brett’s embroidered fabric sculpture Thymoma.

In her final years of high school Brianna Brett was diagnosed with thymoma, a rare cancer between the lungs. But rather than support from her fellow students as she went through treatment in late 2017, she faced bullying instead.

“I was told I was lying about being sick, that I was attention-seeking and that I never went through what I had described,” Brianna remembers.

“The entire ordeal became quite overwhelming, and I knew I needed to release the emotions in a way that was constructive and beautiful.

"The surgery and recovery process were incredibly difficult, and at times I found myself in quite a dark place. I felt I had to create light and gentleness from what was quite the contrary experience.”

Art was one of the things Brianna could do independently after invasive surgery to treat the cancer. She says her embroidered fabric sculpture Thymoma was a welcome distraction.

“I spent approximately 30 hours on the piece, although I didn’t really notice the time while creating the work.

“While physical and mental scars remain after such medical treatment, my aim was to celebrate recovery, beauty, and light.

“It created a welcome change from the everyday challenges that followed the surgery, which included the development of a heart condition.”

Earlier this year Thymoma took out the CQU Create Student Award 2019, with a $500 prize and a place in the touring exhibition.

“I was absolutely elated!” Brianna says.

“I had just started a new job in a new town and was leaving work for the afternoon when [the organisers] rang. I honestly did not even consider it a possibility.

“Financially, I have struggled significantly due to needing time off from work, and couldn’t believe I would not only receive the praise of some very important and meaningful people but also be able to alleviate some of my debts.”

Ms Brett said she was grateful for her mother and her art teacher, who both inspired her to follow her passion for art.

“My mum has always been incredibly creative and encouraged my pursuit of various forms of art. In high school,” she said.

“Tragically, my art teacher from that time passed away from cancer a year prior to my own diagnosis. When I encountered my own journey, I felt inspired by his encouragement to pursue the arts and to honour his legacy by following his guidance.”