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Tracey Emin: My whole life has changed following cancer surgery

Tracey Emin said her “whole life has changed” as a result of her cancer surgery, adding that her body is “weird” now (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Tracey Emin said her “whole life has changed” as a result of her cancer surgery, adding that her body is “weird” now (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Tracey Emin said her “whole life has changed” as a result of her cancer surgery, adding that her body is “weird” now.

The artist, 58, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2020 after discovering a tumour while working on a painting of a malignant lump.

The operation saw many of her reproductive organs removed and she was fitted with a stoma bag.

Her new collection of nudes, for a show called A Journey To Death, is a response to the cancer and resulting surgery and she told The Guardian of a work called Don’t Tell Me About This Kind of Pain: “It’s contorted and twisted but I’ve just gone through something quite horrific.

“You know, if a robot hadn’t done the cutting and sewing, my body would have had scars all over it. I haven’t got scars, I’ve just got holes.

“My body’s weird now. Down here, it looks odd – but I’m not pulled together by scars, on the outside at least. On the inside I am.

“The recovery is still going on. It will be two years in July. Recovery takes a really long time.”

She added: “That’s all come out in these works – the pain I’m in – because I get a lot of pain.

“That’s all just to do with mobility, muscles, everything – no lymph nodes, all of those kind of things. And also the sexual pain as well. I had half my vagina cut away. It’s a big deal. If a guy had half his dick cut off, he’d soon start complaining about it.

“I also had to have my womb removed and my ovaries, a full hysterectomy. Is this sexy? No, of course it isn’t. Everything’s changed for me. My whole life has changed.”

Emin believes she had a premonition, when her entire world suddenly went dark and she saw an apparition, before her diagnosis.

She told the paper: “It was during the first lockdown, just before the banging of the saucepans for the NHS. It was light, I was sitting in my living room waiting to look out the window and the TV was on – and suddenly it went off, the room went completely dark, and this apparition came towards me. I went, ‘Oh, f***ing hell!’”