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When Medicine and Art Meet Many Stories are Told Stitch By Stitch

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A tapestry which aims to stitch the physical, emotional, social and cultural cancer story on a global scale got the final stitch during lockdown when cancer survivor, Heather Swinson completed the panel.

The Cancer Tapestry project aimed to produce a tapestry to show a thousand voices who have survived cancer and show the progress that has been made in cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

The tapestry shows the science of cancer treatment and describes the human nature of care and the care provided by family, friends and communities.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman was on hand to see the tapestry being completed by cancer survivor Heather after she started the project by putting in the first stitch last year. 

Dr Ioanna Nixon, Head and Neck and Sarcoma Consultant Oncologist at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre supported the project along with Mr Rod Mountain ENT surgeon, NHS Tayside with the artwork and creativity behind the project led by Andrew Crummy, a cancer survivor who designed The Great Tapestry of Scotland and other tapestries.

The final stitch was put in by Heather in her home and has added a COVID-19 cell into the tapestry with a stitched kiss, a symbol of caring and compassion.

Dr Nixon said:  “Cancer is affecting and will affect many of us one way or another. The aim was to create a tapestry telling the cancer story of least a thousand people, stitch by stitch.

“It can become an educational tool that can tour not only galleries but hospitals and community centres, and we hope that it will ultimately become a global activity carried out in countries around the world.”

I will use words from cancer survivor, Andrew Crummy, and read a letter he wrote a year after completing his treatment. He said “I kept drawing right through my treatment and now I want to do series of paintings based on these sketches. I remember you were very kind and caring. You took time to ask personal questions and to me that made all the difference. The nurses also had a lovely sense of caring and humour. Caring is so important. “ 

“Andrew’s story is a story of compassion and resilience and an example of where there is love of medicine, there is a love of humanity.” 

The aim of this tapestry is to tell 1000 stories of Cancer, to show the compassion and caring that happens from NHS staff, family and friends.  Each panel is surrounded by 10cm Cancer Cells, stitched into each cell is an individual story.


Notes to Editors

Here are three links which represent the story of the ‘Cancer Tapestry’.

A short film by Jo Allen, Heather’s daughter telling her mother’s journey stitching the panel.

Cancer Tapestry first panel, first stitch.

Cancer Tapestry. /



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Last Updated: 06 August 2020