Digitally Composed Photographs

Artist Statement

I was training for my 11th marathon when I was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer, Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The first day in the hospital my doctor told me that my blood was like a garden. They were going to mow it down with chemotherapy and hope that only the healthy cells would emerge afterwards. And then they were going to do it again and again with the goal that the cancer cells, like deep-rooted weeds, would not return. While not certain, the desire was also that my bone marrow could recover from the multiple rounds of treatment and return to producing healthy cells and that my blood could eventually become a robust garden with red and white blood cells as well as platelets.

In this series of digitally composed photographs I am using the two key visual representations, blood and plants, to explore and visualize my treatment journey. The imagery celebrates blood as a powerful life force that was also killing me. Blood is often portrayed as the villain, representing fear and violence. But this beautiful, delicate and complex system, so often taken for granted, continuously serves our health as it delivers nutrients and oxygen, and fights infections.

All images © Kati Toivanen

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