A COCKENZIE artist who survived cancer is telling the story of the disease through a new tapestry.

Andrew Crummy, who designed the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry and The Great Tapestry of Scotland, is working on a new piece that shows the physical, emotional, social and cultural journey of cancer.

It is being produced in association with Ioanna Nixon, consultant clinical oncologist with NHS Glasgow and Clyde, and Rod Mountain, ENT surgeon with NHS Tayside.

The aim of the tapestry is to show a variety of voices of people who have survived cancer, as well as showing the combination of advancements in healthcare and the disease’s human impact, the care received from families, friends and communities.

Andrew, 59, survived throat cancer after a diagnosis two years ago.

He told the Courier: “I was in the hospital for chemotherapy and I’d taken some drawing stuff with me to keep me occupied.

“The oncologist who was dealing with me, Ioanna Nixon, saw my work and was interested. She said that she did some art as well and brought some in for me to see. She was very kind and caring, not just clinical.”

It was after Andrew left hospital that he and Ioanna came up with the idea for the tapestry. His friend Rod Mountain also got involved after expressing fascination with art which depicts the science of medicine.

“Rod represented a lot of the clinical side of cancer treatment, and Ioanna was more about the human side,” Andrew said.

“Having just gone through it, I was looking at how both sides merge together to save lives.”

Andrew is hoping that the tapestry will encourage people to view cancer differently.

“You can survive it. I did,” he said.

“There’s a lot of cluster and confusion about it, especially when you are first diagnosed. There are ups and downs, and I hope the tapestry reflects that.

“I didn’t just want it to be depressing and drab, I wanted it to be uplifting.”

Many volunteers who have been affected by cancer have come forward to help with the stitching, and Andrew is hoping to get eight to 10 panels finished by the end of the year.

“It offers people a chance to confront cancer in a different way, as well as starting a conversation about it,” he said. “I’ve had so many positive reactions from people who are doing some of the stitching, it’s wonderful to see.”

The first stitch of the tapestry was put in ceremoniously at the Scottish Parliament by Jeane Freeman MSP, cabinet secretary for health.

Ioanna Nixon said: “Cancer is affecting and will affect many of us one way or another.

“The aim is to create a tapestry telling the cancer story of least a thousand people, stitch by stitch.

“It will become an educational tool that can tour not only galleries but hospitals and community centres, and we hope that it will ultimately become a global activity carried out in countries around the world.”

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray visited Andrew’s Cockenzie studio to add his own stitches to the tapestry, saying: “Andrew and the many volunteers he has worked with have really put East Lothian at the heart of tapestry-making in Scotland over recent years

“It is a hugely impressive and moving piece of work and it was a privilege to do a little stitching under the guidance of Andrew and his team of volunteers.”