Tracey Emin shares graphic photo of her stoma to raise awareness after battle with bladder cancer

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The artist Tracey Emin has shared a graphic photo of her stoma to raise awareness about living with disabilities following her cancer battle.

The 58-year-old underwent a series of major operations in 2020 after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer during lockdown.

Medics removed her bladder, urethra, lymph nodes and parts of her intestine and vagina to prevent the tumour from spreading. 

She was fitted with a stoma pouch, an opening on the abdomen, to allow urine to be diverted out of the body and disposed of via a urostomy bag.

Emin has been frank about adapting to life post-surgery and often shares candid updates about her health on social media.

In an Instagram post today, she wrote: ‘This is my stoma. Most people have never seen one. It’s something I’m supposed to hide forever. 

‘It’s part of my intestine attached to the outside of my body. Without it being there and functioning correctly, I will die.’

The artist Tracey Emin has shared a graphic photo of her stoma to raise awareness about living with disabilities following her cancer battle

The artist Tracey Emin has shared a graphic photo of her stoma to raise awareness about living with disabilities following her cancer battle

She was fitted with a stoma pouch, an opening on the abdomen, to allow urine to be diverted out of the body and disposed of via a urostomy bag

She was fitted with a stoma pouch, an opening on the abdomen, to allow urine to be diverted out of the body and disposed of via a urostomy bag

Emin has been frank about adapting to life post-surgery and often and shares candid updates about her health on social media. Pictured, at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, Arrivals at the Tate Modern in London on 5 September 2017

Emin has been frank about adapting to life post-surgery and often and shares candid updates about her health on social media. Pictured, at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, Arrivals at the Tate Modern in London on 5 September 2017

‘[It’s] live flesh. Fragile and delicate. Surrounded by scar tissue and swollen puffy fatty flesh.

‘I have almost total muscle wastage in my core abdomen, stomach. My body will never be the same.

‘To be honest I find wearing the bag quite depressing. Nothing cool about carrying a bag of p*** around with you. 

‘But it’s life.. my life now. Many disabilities can not be seen. But I thought I’d show you mine.’

Emin’s followers were full of praise and encouragement in the comments section, with Actor Russell Tovey replying: ‘So much love and admiration for you always.’

What is a stoma? 

A stoma is an opening on the abdomen connected to the body’s urinary system.

It is fitted in patients to allow waste to be diverted out of the body and emptied externally.

The operation is done on patients who no longer have the full use of their bladder.

A removable pouch known as an urostomy bag attaches to the stoma via a tube.

It collects the urine and needs to be emptied by hand.

GQ editor Dylan Jones wrote: ‘So powerful, so important, so moving x.’ 

While English fashion designer Alice Temperly said: ‘Sending love Tracy, you’re strong and beautiful.’ 

Last month, Emin revealed the struggles of flying abroad with a urostomy bag to her 94,000 Instagram followers. 

‘Traveling with a urostomy bag is a disability… You have no control of when it’s going to fill up and when you need a loo,’ she wrote in the self-deprecating post.

‘When or if the bag comes off… It can be a disaster… the urine just sort of explodes everywhere.’

Announcing her cancer in late 2020, the artist revealed she had been diagnosed during the first coronavirus lockdown and had surgery in the summer.

Emin was diagnosed with a very aggressive squamous cell cancer, which surgeons feared would kill her in months if it spread to her lymph nodes. 

As a result, a decision was made to remove not only her bladder but also her uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, lymph nodes, urethra and part of her colon and vagina.

Prior to the surgery that summer, Emin said she stayed up for 24 hours with her solicitor rewriting her will before sending an email to 70 friends breaking the news of her cancer and instructing them: ‘Do not contact me’.  

Emin compared her operations to having a child or gender reassignment surgery. She also revealed she had been working on a painting of a malignant lump before doctors discovered the tumour on her bladder. 

Emin is one of the most well-known British artists of her generation, famous for her notorious work My Bed, Emin’s record of several days spent in bed in the grip of depression. 

The bed is unmade and the sheets are stained, while a variety of items such as condoms, contraceptive pills, underwear stained with menstrual blood, money, and cigarette ends are strewn on the floor.

The work was nominated for the Turner prize in 1999 and received a hugely mixed response from the public and press 

She was one of the so-called Young British Artists who emerged in the 1990s, along with Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. 

Her next exhibition A Journey To Death opens at the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate, Kent, from April 24 to June 19.

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