- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Lexington Park artist Candy Cummings has a recurring dream where “I am losing control of my life.” Given her circumstances, that is certainly understandable.
Cummings is a cancer survivor in addition to being an artist. Her latest work creating colorful and outlandish hats for women undergoing cancer treatment came about from her own experience. After starting out with a tumor almost as big as her lung, the tumor is now very small.
“The last blood test was perfect,” she said. “Right where it should be.”
She noted that she has been taking vitamins and herbal supplements to keep her potassium levels up.
“It eats up potassium in your system, the chemo does,” she said.
Cummings noted that the chemotherapy was very hard.
“I was so lethargic,” she said. “If I can’t create art, my quality of life diminishes 95 percent. I was so sluggish, I told the doctors ‘I’m not going through another phase of chemo.’ I knew I wouldn’t have enough wellness left to heal my illness.”
Her tumor is shrinking, she said.
“When I came back for a followup, it was smaller,” Cummings noted.
“That tumor is only 10 percent of me,” she added. “The rest of me, the other 90 percent, is okay. I’m the kind of person who hardly ever got sick. I had the flu once. After the initial chemo, I felt it was time to try something else. I need that 90 percent of me that is healthy to heal the 10 percent that isn’t. I knew if I kept up the chemo I wouldn’t have enough wellness to heal my illness.”
Some might think Cummings is “out there.” After all, when you pull up to her house, the yard is full of sculpture and original art literally bursting from every inch of landscape. But in addition to being “out there,” Cummings is also “in here,” where the heart resides.
That’s where her goofy hats, designed to bring a smile to cancer patients, come in. She got the idea in April 2011 when “a friend’s sister” was diagnosed with stage three cancer.
“The idea just came to me. ... Make a hat. She’s going to lose all of her hair,” she recalled.
Over time her hats got “zanier and zanier.”
“I knew I was onto something when I started going to my friend’s sister’s cancer treatment with my hats,” she said. “The hats made them [patients] smile.”
Cummings said that her own experiences were just as harrowing. She had 35 weeks of radiation simultaniously with once a week chemo treatments.
“Originally, the tumor was as large as my left lung,” she said. “Now it’s shrunk. The doctor said he’d never seen that before.
“When I was first diagnosed, it was a little hard to take, knowing that you’re getting close to the end,” Cummings added. “I didn’t like what the chemo was doing to me. Chemo makes a monster out of you.”
The hats are her vision for helping women with cancer feel better about themselves.
“I had patients try one on after their transfusion or before,” she said. “It just something to cause a lot of laughter. When I decided to quit chemo I wore a hat I hade made for myself. It was a crazy hat. I feel if the artist holds positive energy in their hands when they create their art, the patients can feel that energy. That positive energy stays in the hat and they’re able to laugh.”
And if laughter is the best medicine, Cummings said, that has to be significant for the well being of the patient.
“That’s the whole idea,” she said.