“I am a big believer in mind and body. I knew I had to have a good attitude. No one was more freaked out about my cancer diagnosis and with a worse attitude than me. I was so demolished by the news.”
Liz Carren has always been a creative person, a positive person, an artist and illustrator living in Annapolis, MD. She has produced artwork for years involving the space where unique stories and joyful art come together, celebrating wellness and the earth. In between the time spent working at Apple and her artwork, Liz developed a pet project that would become her passion called, “Botanical Beauties and Beasties.”
The project began out of environmental concern, and morphed to include many other characters, 35 now in total. It is a mystical world where the mantra is kindness, and it is something Liz has worked on for the last 10 years until her world changed in the fall of 2020.
Liz was diagnosed with stage III endometrial cancer. The cancer diagnosis was enough to distract her focus from Botanical Beauties and Beasties as Liz entered the uncharted waters of a cancer diagnosis.
“My way of coping with any issue has always been to create art. So, when this cancer happened, I knew I wanted to make some kind of art around it to document it.” The problem was that Liz needed a clear mind to create her art, and now it was anything but clear.
“I really didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do or how to do it.”
Liz’s cousin Claudia, a cancer survivor herself, suggested Liz use artwork to describe her experience and as a way to gain greater control over her emotions.
“It’s the silver lining of me having cancer. Cancer changed my artwork significantly. It allowed me to begin abstract work.”
“My first thought was one of a healing light. I could see it in my mind’s eye. It was a white light, kind of cycling, that’s the only way I can describe it and what started the whole process. I kept seeing it, and finally said ‘This is something I need to draw.’” She used high-resolution digital illustrations to create the first piece and has used this method ever since.
“That’s what started the whole thing and then all the tests and machines, everything started happening, and all the fear came with it.”
After the diagnosis, Liz spoke with her acupuncturist, Peter, and they discussed how visualization aids those undergoing a cancer diagnosis. She further described her next art project, “My 2nd project was a visualization of acupuncture. How it feels and how it’s supposed to be helping me, it’s still one of my favorites. From there, I opened up and began to process all of this visually.”
“CAT Scans, MRI’s, PET Scans, all the fear and drugs, the chemotherapy, and my having to deal with it all. I decided to draw the machines, but not draw the machine as what it looked like, instead to draw what it looked like and what it felt like, my own reaction to what the machine was doing to me. “
“And somewhere, somehow, I flipped from being a hundred thousand percent miserable and scared out of my mind, to an incredibly positive person with a positive attitude. Honestly, I have no idea how that manifested itself. I wish I could bottle it and sell it because it’s gold. I do know the artwork and creative process dug me out of so many of the holes I was in.”
As the artwork evolved, she saw it not just as her therapy, but another way to describe to others what she was going through. “I wanted people to understand, see, and feel what I was going through. And it was not just for cancer patients. I wanted my friends to understand a little bit better.”
These days, Liz is continuing her treatment and hopeful to get back to work at Apple, and on her Beasties as soon as she can. You can view her breathtaking work on the Botanical BB Instagram page (@botanicalbb).