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Resources and Support

Voices of Hope & Healing
for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant

Achieving Serenity Through My Own Hands
by David Weinstein

My Name is David Weinstein. I was diagnosed with AML in early 2007 and quickly underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation followed by a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.

During the furious pace of rescue intervention and transplant, I lost contact with my creative passion, stoneware and porcelain wheel production. After the initial stages of transplant had come and gone, I was explaining to my oncologist how I longed to get back into clay again, and he said to me in a very matter of fact way that I would never be able to touch clay again. He had determined that there were bacterial dangers present that I would be permanently unable to cope with.

Needless to say, this was absolutely stunning. I've been potting for 35 years, always for the passionate love of the sensation and the colors but also for the lovely meditative states that I've been able to achieve when I work. Ultimately, I found an oncologist who happened to be the first doctor's supervisor who reversed the original pronouncement and cleared me for continued work with clay. He simply asked the questions necessary to find out exactly what happens in the studio, something the first doctor neglected to do.

For the past two years my style and my forms have changed dramatically. I think that a near death experience changes where we allow our inhibitions to find harbor in our souls. The result for me has been a willingness to take creative risks that I would not have chanced before. I have an eye for certain shapes and delicacies that I was unable to see before. My pieces have become more sculptural and technically more refined. The work itself is analogous to life in that the fragility and fleeting qualities of life have become part of my art. Each piece has more significance than before. Each step of the process carries its own charge of happiness and contentment. There are no more jobs, just more opportunities. I notice that time stops passing when I'm deep in thought about a pot. I go into a mild and consistent meditation when I work.

Though I was trained with master potters to produce many duplicate pieces as sets, I have found myself working on more individual forms lately. Each piece has its own unique qualities and deserves as much time as necessary to become the special shape with the particular message it conveys.

Since I have developed peripheral neuropathies in my hands and arms, there are times when I cannot feel the clay. This was very disturbing at first. How am I going to be able to work with my medium if I can't feel the roughness, smoothness, or whether it is cold or hot? Well, I discovered that I can close my eyes when I'm working on a piece, and the sensations increase. In fact, I get results that are closer to what I imagine in my mind when I do not look at the clay than I do when I see the surface. My fingers "see" the clay and "feel" the texture and temperature when my eyes are closed. Amazing. None of this development was true before I got sick. And to think that one misinformed doctor almost ruined this entirely.

My art form and the power it has in my life to produce serenity, peace and growth is refined in a way I never imagined would happen. I do believe that there are permanent benefits to certain life events that appear at first to be completely negative. We just need to stand back and watch before we engage, and when we engage, to do so without fear- based judgments. I did not understand that this was going to have a happy part until I accepted that I did not comprehend all the pieces, all at once.

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