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‘Focus on Emotions’ – Photography by Diane Leopard

DianeAs a complementary therapist working with cancer patients, I thought I understood cancer but nothing prepared me for the emotional impact of a diagnosis.

Since then, I have taken a series of nature photographs to represent the emotional impact of cancer called ‘Focus on Emotions’. It represents not only my story but also emotions and feelings that have been shared by many other cancer patients all with different stories to tell. I’m a novice photographer who has fallen in love with a camera and I have found a way to express emotions with images. 

The images are natural, not staged, and unedited other than the occasional crop. They are often everyday scenes, for example sunrise, sunset, flowers, beaches –things most of us have experienced. Cancer changes lives: I now see the beauty that surrounds us all, yet many take for granted.




Diagnosis – This picture of Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland represents how I felt when the consultant told me that I had breast cancer. In the foreground of this picture you can see people going about life as normal whilst my life came tumbling down. 


Tears – Taken in our garden with the early morning dew after the frost had left the nasturtiums limp and lifeless.  This represents the tears that I cried. Tears of sadness, confusion, uncertainty and pain.


Tunnel of treatment, this is a beautiful although poisonous laburnum arch with stunning purple allium flowers standing tall and strong below. The laburnum represents chemotherapy and the allium are the medical staff who care for us during treatment. The light at the end is where we all hope to be when we have gone through treatment. Taken at the Dorothy Clive Gardens.

brain fog

Brain Fog  this represents the fog that comes over us both as a result of treatment and the stress that a cancer diagnosis brings. Taken from my bedroom window in Endon looking towards Stanley.

Horse Muck

Horse muck (S – – T) – this needs no explanation, it is how many people tell me they feel during treatment.

end of treatment

End of Treatment – This empty beach represents the feeling of loneliness and emptiness that the end of treatment often brings. The blue sky represents a happiness that others think you should be feeling. Just like the beach, life was busy and full and just as the tide has gone out treatment stops and it can bring feelings of loneliness. Whilst some people will sadly never reach the end of treatment and this is a picture they can only dream about.


 Scarred – On this photograph you can see where branches have been removed and how over time healing begins to take place, leaving scars both physically and emotionally. Taken at Knypersley Reservoir, Staffordshire.

new beginnings

New Beginnings – This is the early morning dew in our garden on the hazel tree. The delicate dew drop represents the tears we cry and the new bud inside is the new person developing.

This is just a sample of the collection.

The Impact

I deliver a talk and exhibition to health care professionals, cancer patients, work colleagues and the general public. I want people to understand the devastating emotional impact cancer has on lives.  If people can have an insight to our emotions, I am convinced that cancer patients will have an improved quality of treatment and recovery. 

By looking at these images, people seem to able to relate to their own emotions which may be cancer-related or relate to other difficult life experiences such as bereavement, divorce and life changing illnesses. The response has been amazing, it has resonated with so many people.  Comments have included: – ‘That is one of the best presentations I have ever heard’ and ‘Thank you, you’ve helped me to understand what my father must have gone through’.

Some of those facing cancer who bring family and friends along find after listening to the talk they are more able to speak openly with their loved ones.  One blind lady loves it and has heard it three times!

I am now encouraging others to take photographs and tell their own stories to friends, family and work colleagues.  As the saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

I feel genuinely privileged that so many people have shared their experiences with me, which makes it quite a comprehensive story.  I am truly humbled that these unique and thought-provoking images are helping so many people, I think it’s a story that everyone should hear.

In 2013 aged 49 I had treatment for breast cancer. Since then I have taken up photography and have created a series of non-clinical photographs to describe the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis called ‘Focus on Emotions’. Some of which have been published at The Breast Cancer Art Project,  and on several other websites.

Shortly after my five year review I started writing poetry. Poetry has given me a way to express some of my innermost feeling, the words just flowed from my heart.

Both photography and poetry have been very therapeutic and healing for me, I found a creativity within me that I didn’t realise even existed.

I am the wellbeing therapist for the MS Society in North Staffordshire and  have delivered several wellbeing and self-care presentations for Breast Cancer Care, along with wellbeing and Mindfulness sessions in our local primary school (aged 3-12). I do breast awareness promotion at events for our local breast cancer support group Pink Sisters and write as a guest blogger.

I hope to encourage other cancer patients to consider expressing themselves through photography and poetry.

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