Irish Lives: Friends rally to give Cork artist a room of her own

Lymph Chic is raising funds to build a sunroom where artist Ayelet Lalor can work

Artist Ayelet Lalor in her  workshop: The treatment for her lymphoma includes a bone marrow transplant so her dusty workshop will be out of bounds for some time.

Artist Ayelet Lalor in her workshop: The treatment for her lymphoma includes a bone marrow transplant so her dusty workshop will be out of bounds for some time.

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Ayelet Lalor’s headscarves are like intricate sculptures. They rise from her head like exotic birds about to take flight. But you would expect nothing less from the artist.

Her sculptures of women invariably have eye-catching hair or elaborate head coverings and she is known for her strutting ceramic diva figurines. So when she lost her hair after embarking on chemotherapy last month she was never going to opt for a mousey-brown wig.

The past eight weeks have been a whirlwind for the 41-year-old, originally from west Cork. Since she went into St James’s Hospital in Dublin on March 19th for tests, she has been diagnosed with lymphoma, rediagnosed with double-hit lymphoma and undergone two courses of chemotherapy. She is now on her third course of treatment.

“To get rediagnosed with a slightly different form of lymphoma was much harder than the first diagnosis,” she recalls. “It brought us right back to square one. I’m having four courses of treatment and after that I’ll have a bone marrow transplant. It will basically give me a new immune system and I think I will be in an isolation ward for five or six weeks afterwards.”

Self-employed

Because of the hard-hitting nature of the five-days-a-week chemotherapy treatment, she is staying in the Dublin hospital. “They said my immune system was going to go so low afterwards that they wanted to keep a close eye on me. You have to be really careful.”

Getting diagnosed with cancer was truly a bolt out of the blue for the artist who seldom experienced illness of any kind. She started noticing gastric problems such as indigestion at the end of December and began experiencing heart palpitations.

“In February I went to Barcelona for two weeks but I spent most of the time in bed and I got progressively worse. But it never crossed my mind that it would be anything serious.”

Coping with a cancer diagnosis is one thing but being self-employed brought an added worry for Lalor. “Unfortunately when you are self-employed you realise that you don’t qualify for anything when something like this happens. I can’t go to the dole office and say: ‘Hi, I’m sick and I can’t work’. I did have insurance back in the day and I cancelled it, like a hundred million other people did, I’m sure.”

And when she does start recovering, her workshop will be out of bounds because of the dust. “It’s a dirty environment which would go against everything the doctors are trying to do in helping me to get better.”

So her friends and family have begun a fundraising campaign to build a sunroom at her home where she will be able to recuperate and paint in a safe environment.

Support

As part of their “Lymph Chic” campaign, 11 women will run the Dublin mini-marathon in T-shirts she designed. Another friend, Cathy Fitzmaurice, ran the 10k Cooley coast run for the fund yesterday.

“I didn’t even know you could run for a person,” Lalor says. “It’s the most wonderful thing.”

Friends are bringing in an array of bandannas to the hospital and the freezer at home is packed with dinners for her husband, web developer Stephen Sharkey. “People are so supportive and just so lovely,” she says. “The weirdest thing is that I don’t feel unwell. I don’t remember all the time that I have cancer. At least that’s a good thing.”

The Lymph Chic campaign is at ayeletlalor.com/donate. See her work at ayeletlalor.com

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