Tracey Emin has revealed she feels ‘happy for the first time in her life’ and ‘wants to live forever’ after fearing she would die before Christmas following her cancer diagnosis.
The British artist, 57, discovered she had a tumour in her bladder in June and was found to be suffering with very aggressive squamous cell cancer, which surgeons feared would kill her in months if it spread to her lymph nodes.
As a result, a decision was made to remove not only her bladder but also her uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, lymph nodes, urethra and part of her colon and vagina.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today this morning, the Turner Prize nominee, who is now in remission, admitted she was ‘happy to be alive’ after preparing her will and ‘thinking this is it’ ahead of her six-and-a-half-hour operation in July.
Tracey Emin (pictured) has revealed she feels ‘happy for the first time in her life’ and has been called a ‘miracle woman’ by doctors after fearing she would die before Christmas following her cancer diagnosis
Prior to the surgery, Miss Emin said she stayed up for 24 hours with her solicitor rewriting her will before sending an email to 70 friends breaking the news of her cancer and instructing them: ‘Do not contact me’.
Now in remission, she has been left with a stoma bag as a result of having ‘half my body chopped out’ and is sadly still struggling to paint.
But that hasn’t stopped Miss Emin from feeling ‘very happy’, explaining to the radio programme: ‘I‘m doing brilliant, I’m doing so well.
‘I’m so happy and I’m just taking every day as it comes and I’m just so happy to be alive because there was quite a strong expectation that I wasn’t going to make it through Christmas.
‘And I am going to make it to Christmas and the next Christmas and the next one. That’s what I’m aiming for, so I’m feeling really happy and good and I just wish the world would get better. I wish the world would catch up with me on this one.’
The British artist (pictured in 2018), 57, discovered she had a tumour in her bladder in June and was found to be suffering with very aggressive squamous cell cancer, which surgeons feared would kill her in months if it spread to her lymph nodes
Miss Emin continued: ‘It could’ve been very, very different so I’m so grateful. My surgeon and the team are calling me a miracle woman because I just sort of like jumped up and got back into everything.
‘Maybe at the beginning a little bit too fast… because I was back in bed for a month again. But now I’m balancing things and being more cautious.
‘I want to live forever. I want to do my art, I want to have more exhibitions, there’s things to do… and I had to think “I’m not going to be doing it”. I had to come to terms with that.’
WHAT IS BLADDER CANCER?
Bladder cancer is caused by a tumour developing in the lining of the bladder or the organ’s muscle.
Around 10,200 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year and 81,400 people in the US, according to figures.
It is the 10th most common cancer in the UK – but a little more prevalent in the US – and accounts for about three per cent of all cases.
The cancer is more common in men and has a 10-year survival rate of about 50 per cent. Around half of cases are considered preventable.
Symptoms of the disease include blood in the urine, needing to urinate more often or more urgently than normal and pelvic pain.
However, unexpected weight loss and swelling of the legs can also be signs of the killer disease.
Smoking and exposure to chemicals in plastics and paints at work can increase the risk of getting bladder cancer.
Treatment varies depending on how advanced the cancer is, and may include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Source: NHS Choices
Describing how she now feels after her operation, she said: ‘I feel like I’ve been forgiven, or I feel like a big sort of giant curse has been lifted off me. I feel really genuinely happy and I don’t think I’ve ever been happy in my life before.
‘So if you had a choice, lose your bladder, lose this and lose that and be happy, and you’d never known what happiness is, what do you think you’d choose?
‘I think I chose happiness and that’s what I’ve got and I’m going to really make the most of it – and especially with my work, no more messing around.’
The artist, who was on the show ahead of a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, insisted she will never take anything for granted again following her ordeal.
She said: ‘I think when you’ve gone through an experience like that…You will never ever, ever take anything for granted again and you will try to do your best in life for everything, for every moment. Because life really is too short, it honestly is.’
Yesterday Miss Emin admitted she’s ‘not very well’ in her first public appearance since revealing her cancer diagnosis.
She presented the Culture Award to Russell Tovey via video link from her bedroom at her Margate home at last night’s virtual Attitude Awards.
In a frank interview with The Times, Miss Emin admitted that if she had received the diagnosis last year she ‘probably would have topped myself’.
But, she said, she was now glad finally to be talking about the illness, as it would stop people assuming she was just hungover when too unwell to attend events.
Miss Emin had suffered from frequent bladder infections as a result of having to self-catheterise since doctors discovered her bladder had ‘blown out and stopped working’ when she was in hospital for appendicitis five years ago.
However she decided to seek help from a Harley Street urologist in June after finding her catheters blood-stained and experiencing pain that felt ‘really wrong’.
An MRI scan detected the growth and she underwent the dramatic surgery a month later.
As a result, a decision was made to remove not only her bladder but also her uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, lymph nodes, urethra and part of her colon and vagina. Pictured, Tracey in 2005
Squamous cell cancer of the bladder accounts for about five in 100 of all bladder cancers.
The survival rate for women at one year is 64.5 per cent and falls to 43.9 per cent at five years. Miss Emin was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999. Her famous works include her unmade bed installation.
The artist is gearing up for the launch of her latest exhibition this month. She will be revealing her never-before-seen paintings alongside works by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch as part of a ‘landmark exhibition’ at the Royal Academy.
Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness Of The Soul will focus on themes of grief, loss and longing, with Miss Emin picking 19 oil paintings and watercolours by Munch, including his 1907 painting The Death Of Marat, to explore his complex relationship with women.
These will sit alongside 25 of her own pieces, including paintings – some of which will be on display for the first time – neons and sculpture.
Highlights of Tracey Emin’s career
1995, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-95: This piece first brought Tracey Emin to wider fame, both in the art world and among the general public
1999, My Bed: The piece is Emin’s record of several days spent in bed in the grip of depression. The bed is unmade and the sheets are stained. All around are strewn a variety of items such as condoms, contraceptive pills, underwear stained with menstrual blood, money, and cigarette ends. The work was nominated for the Turner prize in 1999 and received a hugely mixed response from the public and press
2001, The Perfect Place to Grow: This work pays homage to the artist’s Turkish Cypriot father who, she says, is a fantastic gardener but a terrible carpenter. It consists of a wooden birdhouse-like structure on wooden stilts
2004, Hate and Power Can be a Terrible Thing: This appliquéd blanket work is a blistering attack Margaret Thatcher, and her participation in the Falklands War of 1982
2011, I Promise To Love You: In the 2000s, Emin began working extensively with neon lighting. These works feature words and phrases in her handwriting. Pictured, 2011’s neon sculpture I Promise To Love You