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Artist takes life-affirming action after cancer

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image “Daisey and I” by Connie Allen. Artwork courtesy Lily USA

Connie Allen was 43 when she discovered a latent talent. “I woke up one morning and did a portrait,” said Allen. No one was more surprised than Allen, who had no formal art training, to find that she could paint and draw. “It was like a gift that was all of a sudden given to me.”

That was about 30 years ago. Since then, Allen, a Maine native and mother of three, has won numerous awards for her artwork, including the 2008 Oncology on Canvas competition sponsored biennially by Lily USA.

Allen has turned to her art as a creative outlet during tough times and as a way of helping others. Allen was diagnosed with colon cancer six years ago. “When I was told I had cancer it was like I was hit on the head,” she said.

Next came surgery followed by chemotherapy. “Soon I realized I could be cured,” Allen said. “I decided then and there to use my art ability to help others with cancer.”

Cancer was her “A-ha!” moment, Allen said. “People shouldn’t wait until they have cancer to appreciate their lives,” she added. “Life is so exciting when you almost lose it.”

Allen says she now gets up every day with a goal to do something for someone else. After her recovery she began teaching portrait drawing to middle-aged women and men. But she didn’t stop there.

Recently retired in Florida, Allen also teaches art to adolescent girls jailed at a juvenile detention center. “I don’t care what they’ve done and I don’t ask. I love these girls.” She teaches them how to draw – something she was never exposed to as an adolescent – and said several have shown real talent. But turning them into prize-winning artists isn’t Allen’s goal. It’s all about turning them on to the creative process.

She also uses her art to help abandoned animals find homes. The interest generated by her animal portraits has generated income for the Titusville, Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). She donates her portraits of “hard-to-place” animals to the shelter, and says proudly that six animals have been adopted because of interest generated by her paintings.

Dogs hold a special place in Allen’s heart. Her dog “Daisey” was nearly 11 when Allen was diagnosed, but Daisey stood strong during her master's months of illness. She died the day before Allen’s final treatment.

Related: Art competition seeks artists touched by cancerDaisey was the inspiration for Allen’s winning Oncology on Canvas pastel called “Daisey and I.” Allen summed up her whimsical piece with a tribute to her devoted companion:

“What a sweet, mischievous, wonderful joy she was in my life. We were the best of friends for eleven years. She was always there for me, waiting along with me, for all of this to be over.

“It all happened so fast I was stunned. Before I knew it, I was having surgery, then a schedule being mapped out for my chemotherapy treatment.

“And there was Daisey, waiting for me.”

Connie Allen encourages other artists with cancer and caregivers to submit their work to the competition. The deadline to register is June 10.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (5 posted):

Bare Necessities coupon on 03/26/2010 01:22:25
Such a brave lady!And the job that she is doing is really appreciable.People fear of the word 'cancer' but Allen has courage to fight against it and not only that she also encourages others to come out of cancer.Great job!God bless her!
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iedge on 03/31/2010 00:19:43
Hi, I think those facing cancer need to know it is alright to fall apart if they need to. They also need to know that reaching out to a support group can be essential to recovery. You have made great effort. Hope she get well soon!
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r4 kaart on 04/08/2010 08:49:58
what a story to read, someone that makes the most of a bad situation and came out stronger
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r4 flash kaart on 05/19/2010 08:17:51
wow, what a brave woman. There are not many people who can fight like her. great job. I can not emagine facing such a thing.
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wva on 02/22/2011 08:17:37
“Life is so exciting when you almost lose it.” Thats so true, when you get a wakeup call you tend to think about things and put them in perspective.
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