Cancer, Bears and Fierce Compassion

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Gender be damned, a mother bear’s “fierce compassion” became my default mode as I cared for my ailing adventure partner and soul mate.

I know the readers here on CURE® are quite aware of this, but it is shocking how quickly and devastatingly a cancer diagnosis can change life’s direction.

Just five years ago at this time, my late wife and I had just had a summer filled with hiking adventures in two National Parks and other places. Our future looked more or less carefree with many other grand adventures already planned down the road. And we had never ever heard of the term “pathogenic germline mutation.”

Three months later everything would change.

(This article, by the way, is the second in a series of blogs where I will be sharing an idea or two for a sketch that will maybe give readers here an artistic break from the awfulness of dealing with cancer. You can read the first article here.)

Having already visited many National Parks together during almost four decades of marriage, we had a dream of visiting every National Park in the US. With me being an artist and my wife a writer, we had hoped to spend a lot of time seeking solitude as well as inspiration among the natural beauty of the parks. With retirement on the horizon, we had hoped to volunteer in some of the parks with maybe another artist-in-residence opportunity at a park for me. But then, hereditary cancer turned those dreams to dust.

Our last hiking adventure in a National Park before my wife’s cancer diagnosis was at Glacier. While hiking at Glacier, we were always watching out for grizzly bears – especially mother grizzly bears with cubs. A mother bear will fiercely defend her offspring to keep them safe and we knew and respected that. Fortunately, we never had to use the can of bear spray that was holstered on my side nearly every place we went in the park.

I often thought about that trip and the bears as my wife struggled with cancer. Gender be damned, a mother bear’s “fierce compassion” became my default mode as I cared for my ailing adventure partner and soul mate.

Bears became the object of many doodles while I sat in surgery waiting rooms and chemotherapy infusion centers with my wife. Often they were sketches of angry bears. Ones where I imagined the bears using their long, sharp claws to shred the holy crap out of all cancer.

Now, “fierce compassion” has become my mantra as I advocate for better cancer screening and care. And a mother bear has become my symbol of that advocacy. Needless to say, both are certainly in the forefront as a solo parent of a daughter with a BRCA2 mutation.

So, my sketch activity for this blog is a mother bear. Not a cute fluffy-teddy-bearish sketch, but a mother bear rendered with ire directed at cancer.

You just need a piece of paper, a pencil, and an eraser to get started.

1. Lightly draw an elongated oval. This will be the bear’s body.

1. Lightly draw an elongated oval. This will be the bear’s body.

2. Add a circle on the top of the big oval. This will be the bear’s head.

2. Add a circle on the top of the big oval. This will be the bear’s head.

3. Add two sets of small circles where the bears arms will be.

3. Add two sets of small circles where the bears arms will be.

4. Now add two more sets of small circles for the bear’s legs.

4. Now add two more sets of small circles for the bear’s legs.

5. Next, add two small ovals for the bear’s feet. Then add a half-oval on
top of the “head” circle. This will be an ear.

5. Next, add two small ovals for the bear’s feet. Then add a half-oval on
top of the “head” circle. This will be an ear.

6. Now add two small rectangles for the bear’s snout and lower jaw.
Then, add a triangle for the eye.

6. Now add two small rectangles for the bear’s snout and lower jaw.
Then, add a triangle for the eye.

7. Darken the outline now. Erasing any unwanted lines.

7. Darken the outline now. Erasing any unwanted lines.

8. Finally, add in details – claws, teeth, a nose, fur, etc., anything you feel adds to the fierceness. This is where you can add bold, angry lines if you feel you need to release some anger.

8. Finally, add in details – claws, teeth, a nose, fur, etc., anything you feel adds to the fierceness. This is where you can add bold, angry lines if you feel you need to release some anger.

And, as always, don’t stop there. Add a background, color or whatever you feel is needed.

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