My name is Eric Warman, and on December 17th, 2009, I had oral cancer surgery. While in the ICU, I asked family and friends to document with photographs what I was going through. For the next three months during my recovery, I made 3 blog posts about this ordeal. These posts included actual photos of the surgery which my doctors were kind enough to provide. I posted this account at hapshaw.com, which then lead to many connections with people who have either experienced a similar cancer, or been close to someone who has.
As a result of posting these images online, Brian Hill, head of the Oral Cancer Foundation, contacted me. He encouraged me to use this media to convey the realities of head and neck cancer as I have come to know them. For the last year I have been pondering his suggestions, trying to determine the best ways to accomplish this. I believe it took this long for me to formulate my ideas because I wasn’t ready to live in ‘cancer reality’ so soon after my surgery. Even though I was very amped about using my artistic talents to do some good, I don’t think I wanted to deal with it on a day to day basis.
As I was recovering, I went to one of the local Head & Neck Cancer Support Group meetings, where I met Sten. Sten had the same oral surgery that I had, except that his complete lower mandible was removed and rebuilt, whereas only half of mine was. He also went through thirty-five post-surgery radiation treatments, and I did not need any. I have often felt like I didn’t ‘pay my dues’ in some strange way, compared to most of the others who have had to suffer through radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As I shared the conversations from Brian Hill with the group, Sten seemed the most open to the idea of sharing his story in a visual form to help others.
Fast forward. A year later, I found out that Sten was just finishing treatments on a second bout with cancer; this time in his esophagus. We contacted each other through email and met at a coffee shop a block away from my work. He then told me all that had happened with his esophogeal cancer. After hearing of his experiences, it was obvious to me what we had to do, in order to tell this story. Relying only on photographs wasn’t going to do it justice.
Thus, The Dragonfly.