How one women hopes to give emotional support to cancer patients through the medium of photography

Diane leopard is providing emotional support to cancer patients through a beautiful photo-series. Read her story and view a gallery of her pictures below

Diane Leopard
One of Diane’s photographs which represents the ‘treatment’ phase of her diagnosis

Diane Leopard hopes to provide emotional support to those receiving cancer treatment through a series of abstract photographs which represent her own journey through breast cancer. LIVING chatted to her about the project and she agreed to share a selection of her images below. 

Holistic Therapist, Diane, from Endon in Stoke-on-Trent, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. But it wasn’t until an end of term project for a photography course she had enrolled on asked her to produce a portfolio of photographs telling the story of ‘a journey,’ that she decided to reflect on her own personal experience of cancer. 

“Having undergone treatment for breast cancer in 2013 I decided to reflect on my personal cancer journey through nature photographs. At the end of the evening a fellow student came and said thank you, you’ve really helped me to understand what my father must have gone through – I felt so touched by this comment, I didn’t realise it would be so meaningful to others.”

And now her photographs are continuing to help others to understand the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis. Her images have been shared with health care professionals, cancer patients and the general public. They have also been exhibited online by the Breast Cancer Art Project

“Prior to my own treatment I had spent 2 years at the Dougie Mac Hospice as a volunteer complementary therapist and I still meet with their therapists so invited them and Pink Sisters Breast Cancer Support group to view the photographs.

Read more: These pink sisters are not afraid to bare all for breast cancer support 

“Their response was so overwhelming that I decided to reflect fully on my own emotions during and after treatment and those that other cancer patients have kindly shared with me.

“I now have between 35 and 40 photographs I use to describe the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis, that reflect not only my experiences but those of others which means that it offers a more comprehensive story.

“Focus on Emotions uses non-clinical unique and thought-provoking photographs to discuss feelings by using photographs that resonate with peoples own different experiences.”

“I have spoken several times at the Dougie Mac Hospice which has been opened to all staff, volunteers, trustees and supporters. I would like to visit more support groups, medical/healthcare conferences, WI meetings etc and offer return to work presentations for businesses.

“The feedback has been overwhelming with comments from experienced cancer nurses saying ‘That is one of the best talks I have ever heard’ ‘beautiful and informative’ ‘powerful and thought provoking’ ‘beautifully illustrated’.”

Diane hopes that the project will encourage cancer patients and their families to talk to each other. She says: 

“I am a clinical complementary therapist, had done additional specialist training and had several years’ experience working with cancer patients before treatment.  My mum had also had breast cancer 10 years earlier and I really thought I understood cancer, but nothing had prepared me for the emotional impact.  Literally overnight I couldn’t sleep, I felt nauseous, overwhelmed, out of control and anxious.  The present was no longer mine and the future was uncertain.

Read more: Staffordshire artist wins prize in national competition

“I also realised from experience that my family and friends would all be struggling with their own emotions.  Therefore, I have included photos in the project that also express the feelings of my family.

“Emotional support is very limited for people affected by cancer either directly or for those caring for loved ones. This project aims to increase personal, professional and public awareness of the emotional journey that runs parallel to a cancer diagnosis.

“The more we can all understand about the varying emotions the more support we can offer others. Also, by myself and others sharing emotional stories hopefully many anxious cancer patients won’t feel quite so alone and frightened.”

View a sample of the Focus on Emotions collection by Diane Leopard

1. Diagnosis
This picture of Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland represents how I felt when the consultant told me that I had breast cancer. In the foreground of this picture you can see people going about life as normal whilst my life came tumbling down.
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