Main photo: Janine Marson (left) donates her painting A Swirl in the Rapids to Jackie Riley of Enliven Muskoka (supplied)
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on many people as they try to manoeuvre their way through a new normal. Some, like local artist Janine Marson, have had to navigate it amidst other challenges—in her case, those brought by cancer treatments.
“She’s a very warm and genuine person who cares about others,” said friend and fellow artist, Steve Bentley. “She puts light into people’s lives.”
Marson is well-known in the community for her artistic talent and giving nature, so her friends wanted to return some of that kindness. They came together and donated funds to purchase a painting she saw while receiving treatment in Barrie.
“She went through surgery in [March] and they thought they got it all, but a post-surgery test…showed they didn’t,” said Bentley. “She started going to the Rotary House in Barrie. While she was there, another friend of ours, Robert McAffee, a landscape painter, did a watercolour called Storm Receding. Janine saw that and it resonated with her. She fell in love with it because it was sort of talking about the journey she was going on.”
Bentley said there was a group of about 18 people that contributed to purchasing the painting for her.
“It takes my breath away, and I’m sure I was crying a lot of happy tears when I saw the painting and read all the wonderful thoughts and a card of blessing from Robert McAffee himself. Truly amazing. I love the painting so much,” said Marson. “I am truly grateful to all of you who participated in this expression of love and support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It means so much and will always be a reminder to me that the storms do recede, especially with a little help from your friends. I always look to the light even in the darkest hours.”
But that’s not all the group did.
“I had no idea how much money we would raise,” said Bentley. “We ended up raising about $425 more than we needed for all of the expenses for the painting. So with Janine going through COVID-19 and not working, and cancer treatments, money can be tight.”
The group was initially going to simply give Marson the additional funds. However, one of the contributors suggested the group use the additional funds to purchase one of Marson’s own paintings so she would receive the proceeds and could donate the painting where she wanted.
Marson chose Enliven Muskoka, a local organization that offers programs and workshops for people living with cancer.
“They [Enliven Muskoka] have been so helpful and supportive in so many ways on this cancer journey I’ve been on over the last few months. I also thought about which painting of mine would be appropriate and I have selected A Swirl in the Rapids, an original watercolour. It’s a sweet little watercolour that captures the joy and movement of water, healing water,” said Marson. “We all go along on this life and the water seems calm, then all of a sudden there is a bend in the river sending us in a different direction. A set of rapids begins and then the tumbling takes us on further down the river to calmer waters once again. Such is the adventure of life. It is my hope this painting will help others to recognize that embracing a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean the end or the journey or that diagnosis is predetermined. I learned, from my own experience, that it means we move within it; allowing ourselves to slip in and around the rocks like the water and remaining fluid to the changes along the journey.”
Jackie Riley, executive director of Enliven Muskoka, said Marson’s donation is an inspiration.
“While people use Enliven’s services, they benefit from ‘other eyes’. Sometimes we all need someone to see and share the beauty, the art, and the possibilities that exist alongside cancer. Janine’s piece is a metaphor for our journeys in life,” she said. “Janine Marson’s donation of art to Enliven really speaks to our notion of ‘help’. Here at Enliven, our community includes cancer patients, survivors, family, friends, caregivers, and primary care providers who consistently connect with us both to offer and accept help. We never know in this life whether we’ll be in the position to offer it or to receive it and Enliven community brings great grace to both. Janine’s donation, after her cancer experience, which she so authentically shared with us in our Soup for the Soul program, reminds us that we each have our part to play when it comes to ‘helping’.”
With the current global pandemic, Bentley said more people can relate to facing a difficult challenge.
“We’re living in a very difficult time right now with COVID-19 and although people are facing difficulties and there are also people going through challenges and illnesses, there can be a lot of support around you if you’re looking for it,” he said. “If this happens to you, you can come out okay on the other side. There’s usually a group of people around you more than willing to support you and give you assistance, it’s just a matter of asking.”
Riley wants those either going through cancer or who know someone who is to know that services are available remotely during this time.
“Even during this time of uncertainty, our volunteers and partners remember us and recommend us,” she said. “It’s shown us that you don’t need bricks and mortar to be helpful. We know we’re all in this together and Enliven Cancer Care is pleased to be able to meet people online, on the phone, via email or social media, or while wearing masks and physically distanced. Whatever help looks like to you, Enliven is here to meet you there.”
Learn more about Enliven at enlivenmuskoka.ca.
See the moment Marson received her gift, along with messages from some of those who purchased it for her, in the video below.
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