Overcoming cancer, and expressing his journey

Looking at the bright smile on his face, and seeing the passion for life in his eyes, one would never expect to learn that 53-year-old graphic designer/painter Doug Driediger had come face-to-face with a cancer that could have taken his life only six years ago.

Since recovering from cancer, Driediger completed many self-portraits reflecting on his journey. This one, completed in 2011, is entitled ‘Judas.’
The caption for this painting reads: “Ah, Judas. I wonder about him a lot… what his motives were, the depths of his remorse. I believe we all have the ‘Judas capacity,’ given the right (wrong) choices. And yet, Jesus chose him, too.”

Photo by: Matthew HayhurstIn 2005, Driediger was diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer. Though all hope seemed lost at the time, his journey would later inspire him to reflect on his experiences.

“When I first learned I had cancer, I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “Most men who have prostate cancer are in their 70’s, and there I was, 47 years old, being told that I too had the disease.”

Driediger’s inspirational painting depicting the journey through prostate cancer, not just for him, but also for any man who has to ‘climb that mountain.’

Photo by: Matthew HayhurstAccording to his wife, Gayle Kroeker-Driediger, his journey through prostate cancer was a humbling one.

“It was rough at first,” she said. “I was really worried that he would turn inward and be engulfed by his own pain. There were a lot of things that he took for granted before, like his health, which he no longer had. Doug was humbled by the experience, and it has made him a stronger person.”

After starting the recovery process from his surgery, Driediger took off a year off from painting.

“It’s not really that I didn’t want to paint, but there was some healing that had to take place,” he said. “I felt that life was a bit overwhelming. Having just been though a very traumatic experience, trying to get back to day-to-day life was difficult.”

A year and a half after his diagnosis, Driediger picked up a paint brush and challenged himself to paint one self-portrait every week for an entire year, reflecting on his journey through the cancer process.

His wife, however, saw it as crucial part of his healing process.

Driediger focuses hard on his current painting project, a mural for the town of Fort Saskatchewan. He says that overcoming cancer has made him the person he is today, and has given him a new inspiration to paint.

Photo by: Matthew Hayhurst“He wanted to stay faithful to his craft, but I saw it as a self-reflection,” Gayle said. “His paintings really revealed where he was, his mindset and how he was coping.

“He was so focused, and I think he understood that life as he knew it had changed, and he was working it all out in his head. The paintings were a way for him to better understand himself, and where he was.”

Climbing the mountain:

After having come to terms with his encounter with the cancer, Driediger started sharing his story with others.

In 2010 he was asked to paint a mural for the new Prostate Cancer Centre facility at the Rockyview General Hospital.

Linda MacNaughton of the Prostate Cancer Centre worked closely with Driediger to create a painting that would pass on a message of hope to other men facing the cancer.

“Doug brings things to life,” she said. “He is such a remarkable man who has such a passion for what he does. Every detail in his work has a story.”

As an avid mountain climber, Driediger thought that the image of climbing a mountain most related to his journey overcoming the cancer.

Interview with Driediger

“When a lot of guys get this diagnosis, they think ‘I’m not sure if I can get up this mountain, this is a really big mountain, and I’m not a mountain climber,’” he explained.

“I think the imagery of a man climbing a mountain suggests that by keeping at it, and not letting your sights off the top of the mountain, you will make it to the top. When you get up there and you’ve done all you can to overcome the cancer, the view you see when you reach the summit is transformative. That was my take on overcoming the cancer.”

MacNaughton says that the portrait not only reflects Driediger’s journey, but “it reflects every man’s journey (through cancer) as well.”

Driediger said because he had a personal struggle with cancer, and has an interest in sharing his journey with others, painting the mural for the very cancer centre that was there for him every step of the way was a no-brainer.

“The fact that I graduated from their program, and I painted the mural is really a message from me saying: ‘Hey, I conquered the mountain and so can you.’ It’s a message of hope really.”

Driediger’s mural and original painting are on display at the Prostate Cancer Centre on the sixth floor of the new parkade at the Rockyview General Hospital.

mhayhurst@cjournal.ca

Beating the disease is only half the battle

WRITTEN BY PAMELA DI PINTO

Many breast cancer survivors also struggle with the transition from treatment to a normal, healthy life again.

 That’s where organizations like Calgary’s Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation (BCSCF) come in.

BCSCF offers individual and group recovery programs to help breast cancer patients take back their life, both physically and mentally. Its services are unique, and only available to residents of Calgary and Southern Alberta. Breast cancer survivor Helen Rees strikes a pose alongside her husband, Dave, during the Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation’s eighth annual Fashion with Compassion Fundraiser at Calgary’s BMO Centre on Saturday, September 24, 2011.
Photo by: Pamela Di Pinto

One Calgary woman, Helen Rees, turned to the foundation after her battle with breast cancer in 2007. She felt pressured to return to work, even though she wasn’t really “better.”

Here’s her inspiring story of how, with the foundation’s support, she was able to get back on the horse.