I chatted with jewelry artist Nancy Linkin as she sat among her blooming flowers. They feed her, she said. It seemed like the perfect place to sit as we were about to discuss a difficult subject: her experiences with breast cancer.
At Artful Home, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Nancy and her beautiful, elegant jewelry for 15 years. She’s been an amazing partner and has never wavered in our relationship. Recently, when we decided to become active in the fight against breast cancer, Nancy reached out to us—taking us completely by surprise. We had absolutely no idea that she was fighting this disease. She had been silent about it for fear that it would have a negative impact on our relationship. Even more shocking: she had been battling cancer for most of the time we’d been partnering together.
Breast cancer runs in Nancy’s family. Her mom is a survivor. Nancy was diagnosed for the first time in 2004. As an independent artist, fighting this disease is bigger than just the disease. Devoting her full attention to fighting would mean loosing her jewelry business. That was not an option for her, as designing and creating jewelry is “a wonderful way of making a living.”
Early on in her fight, a friend offered a piece of advise that has stuck with her ever since: “the only thing you can control is your attitude.” This simple sentence changed her view, giving her the strength to fight while continuing on with her already full life. Nancy doesn’t take a single day—or a single moment—for granted. “Attitude is gratitude,” was the way she phrased it. With this philosophy guiding her, Nancy has been able to turn her experience with cancer around. Instead of dwelling on the pain and struggles, she has focused on fully appreciating life—an appreciation that has led the way to new wisdom and a better understanding of others. Her positive approach to everyday life radiated from her as we spoke.
Nancy told me about her diagnosis and her treatment over the years. She also spoke of the many other curveballs that life has thrown along the way. Imagine dealing wtih all of the everyday experiences of life, plus supporting yourself through your own work as an artist, plus battling to rid your body of an invading cancer. Through her years of diagnosis, misdiagnosis, procedures, remission, re-occurrence, and clinical trials, she has become an inside expert on our medical system. These are not skills she developed when training to be an artist. They are the survival skills she has picked up along her journey. I was struck by how much strength shone through in her words. She has found a way to continue being a creator even while fighting. It’s as if creating art gives her the vitality and spirit to keep going and thrive.
As we conversed, Nancy described her ordeals in a fairly matter-of-fact tone. She talked about how she was able to make time to work with metal and craft her jewelry. She found time at night and in the odd times of the day between caring for her children, caring for her mother, and attending to the ins and outs of life. She realized that even though the clinical trial treatment was exhausting, there was just enough time to rest on the way home that she could start to work when she returned home.
I was struck by my complete ignorance of her fight. We’ve been working with Nancy for so many years. We are captivated by her jewelry and feature it every opportunity we can. And this whole time, she has never once let us or a customer down. This is remarkable considering everything she has gone through. She hadn’t shared her fight with us for fear that it would negatively impact our partnership—and now that she has shared it with us, it has done just the opposite. We are even more in awe of her as a person and an artist than ever before. And though our partnership is a business relationship, it is so much more than that: Nancy is part of the Artful Home family. It makes me wonder how many other artists are fighting though this disease—or any other—who decide to keep it quiet for fear of damaging their partnerships and livelihoods.
Throughout it all, Nancy has realized how short the time is that we all have on earth. Her fight is not over, yet she receives joy from being able to create beautiful things and send them to people all over the country. We are honored and humbled to be a part of her journey.