I painted this picture a few days after I had spent the night sitting with my friend Lloyd in a local hospital.  He had been taken there very suddenly a few days before and diagnosed with cancer.  He had been unwell for some months until his dizziness and sickness drove him to consult a doctor.  In the hospital they found several tumors in his head, throat and chest and he had an operation to remove the one in his head that was pressing on a part of his brain and causing the dizziness and nauseous feelings.  When I went to sit with him it was his first night in a small room away from the frantic energy of the intensive care unit.

When I arrived I was surprised, given what I had heard about his diagnosis and his operation, how well he seemed.  He was already sitting up and talking to two friends and we talked for some time before he decided to go to sleep. 

What amused me was how Lloyd gradually evolved from being a (reasonably) compliant patient into his usual cantankerous self who was not going to put up with what he perceived as unnecessary institutional necessities of hospital protocol.

He totally ignored the needs of the nurses to carry out regular checks as he said he thought it was more important to sleep.   In the end I had to lock the door of the room to stop the nurse coming in until he woke up in the morning.  Lloyd was uncompromising and in many ways not a ‘nice’ patient.

A lot of the night was spent sitting and watching him wrapped up like a crysallis and I had the sense that he was going to a place very deep inside from where his healing might come.  I mused on whether his cantankerous ways were what would give him the strength to bring him through this very challenging experience.

In the morning, amazingly, he sat up and said he felt much better especially now that he was no longer nauseous and dizzy.  He ate a good breakfast – his first food for some time as before he went into hospital he had not been able to eat anything. 

Within an hour of so of waking up he wanted to stand up.  I was terrified as he is quite a bit taller than me and although he had lost a lot of weight I didn’t fancy my chances of being able to help effectively if he fell over.  My fears were unfounded, thank goodness, as the dizziness had completely disappeared and he was really pleased to be standing upright again.

I heard from friends that he later went for a walk around the hospital and within a few days he had returned home.

I sent Lloyd a copy of the painting (he gave me permission to put it  up on this website) and this was the conversation that we had about it:

Lloyd;  Why the distance between you and me in the painting?’
’You were in fact quite close to me, with close eye contact and also verbal contact.

Priya; Because it was like that for a lot of the time.  We talked when I arrived but then you were asleep for most of the night.

Lloyd;  Still, the cover of the mattress has much the same colour as the cloth on which you are sitting. Why the vast, gray space without boundaries?

Priya; Because it felt to me as if you were suspended from your ordinary life and moving towards a different reality.  That being with you I was also being draw in to that different reality.

Lloyd; Why am I rolled up in a sheet like a chrysalis?

Priya; That’s exactly what you looked like, as if you were going to a very deep place within yourself to heal/transform.

Lloyd; Why are you dressed in red?

Priya; Because I was dressed in red!  I love dressing in red.
(Lloyd hadn’t remembered this)

Lloyd died a few months later in May but this operation enabled him to live these months feeling reasonably well and able to be with his friends.

Picture painted on February 26th 2010