Serendipity on Colmer’s Hill – Ellie’s Story
Here’s the story behind an incredible painting.
Thanks to Bridport artist Ellie Leger, Weldmar Hospicecare is set to raise money through the sale of a greetings card featuring one of her paintings. ‘Serendipity on Colmer’s Hill’ is not only a striking piece of artwork, but also has an accompanying poem composed by Ellie that features on the reverse of the card.
Ellie was being cared for at our Inpatient Unit in Dorchester.
“You don’t expect to get this ill at my age”, Ellie told us. “I was 39 when I was diagnosed, and had young children aged three and six years.”
Her cancer diagnosis prompted a life changing decision. “I had been working really, really hard for years as a graphic designer, but all I had ever wanted to be was a painter. I painted in my spare time. When I was diagnosed, we’d just finished renovating our house – it was the perfect family home. I had completed six months of chemotherapy, fifteen radiation treatments, and I was finally feeling back to normal! I was able to set up a painting studio in Bridport, which was my life long dream. The dreadful experience had made me appreciate everything in life so much more – I could see the beauty in everything, and I was so much more grateful for all I had and had ever had in my life – especially the beauty of Dorset.”
“If I hadn’t had the cancer, I might have carried on being a graphic designer. Instead, I was able to live out my hopes and dreams and it was the happiest year of my life.”
“My girls, Daisy and Poppy, would come in and paint, and stick sequins everywhere!”
It seems that Daisy and Poppy have inherited their mother’s artistic flair – a number of their own pictures adorn the wall of Ellie’s room at the hospice.
Ellie set up a small gallery, which unfortunately had to close, but she still has a website, managed by her husband, which sells her limited edition prints – www.thelegergallery.co.uk
During her first diagnosis, she attended many Reiki sessions at Symondsbury Manor Yard, and the majestic sight of Colmer’s Hill greeted her after each session, which became a signal of her regaining her health. Her children were just about big enough to climb all the way to the top, and she says, “Our family has always had an affinity with the outdoors, especially drawn to the rugged, wild coastal places, in contrast to the softness of the beauiful bluebell woods and the green rolling hills of Dorset.”
“The painting was something of a happy accident, hence the name! I normally paint seascapes, but I was experimenting with some green colours, and then came some foxgloves. I started at the bottom, and by the time I got to the top, it was Colmer’s Hill! So I added the trees and there you go! It was as if it painted itself by magic.”
Ellie has donated the artwork and poem to us for a greetings card, and she said she wants to give something back for the incredibly generous care that she has received at the hospice.
“The care I’ve had here has been absolutely unbelievable. The pain meant I was finding things really difficult at home. I discovered recently I had fractured my spine in five places. That was hard news to swallow, meaning that I would never walk again after being such a keen runner.”
“The nurses here are absolutely wonderful, they are so brave. I was in so much pain, I was literally crying out in my sleep, they never left myside until my pain was under control. They taught me breathing exercises and I have had daily reflexology and acupuncture. They were able to lift me, in to comfortable positions and soon had a plan to completely manage my pain. I have never felt so well cared for in my life and it is genuine kindness – I had no idea that a place as wonderful as this could exist!”
“I feel like I must be the only person here sometimes, it is so peaceful. I ring my bell and the nurses are straight in, often they have the time to stay and talk to me, especially when I am in pain. They are all so comforting, I feel like I’m surrounded by the most lovely friends”
Ellie has been looking at the five stages of grief – a theory developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who says we go through various stages from denial through to acceptance when faced with grief or loss – as part of her journey. “Someone told me that when they reached acceptance, they were able to let it all go and carry on as normal. I never thought that I would reach acceptance for all the awful things that cancer has stolen from me or to be able to accept the cruelty that it has happened to my little family. Eventually I did reach acceptance, when I did I was just overwhelmed with gratitude!’ My girls are the best tonic – I love them so much and I’m so grateful to have been able to give them their lives, how wonderful it will be for them to grow up surrounded by the beauty of Dorset and hopefully my grandchildren too!’
Serendipity on Colmer’s Hill is currently being produced as a greetings card, with all proceeds to Weldmar Hospicecare. We thank Ellie, Russ, Daisy and Poppy for the generosity of donating this to us, and to her and her family for sharing their story.