Tracey Emin on why she publicly discusses her cancer diagnosis

Tracey Emin On Why She Publicly Discusses Her Cancer Diagnosis
Artist Tracey Emin. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images
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By Keiran Southern, PA

Tracey Emin said she is publicly discussing the fallout from her cancer diagnosis to help herself and others deal with the stigma of the disease.

The artist (57) was diagnosed early last year and underwent major surgery resulting in many of her reproductive organs being removed.

Emin, who is now cancer-free, has also been fitted with a urostomy bag.

She shared candid pictures from hospital in The Guardian, including an almost-naked photograph showing her bag.

Tracey Emin has spoken candidly about her cancer diagnosis. Photo: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Emin explained to the newspaper why she has been so frank about her experience with cancer.

She said: “Having a urostomy bag is quite a disadvantage for lots of reasons and it’s something that most people would want to keep a secret. It’s a very private thing because, basically, you’ve got part of your bodily function happening on the outside of your body.


“It leaks and things happen. I could be out somewhere public and it could happen – and people’d just think I’ve pissed myself or think I’ve been drinking.

“Also, I could come out of a disabled toilet and people would go: ‘Oh, Tracey Emin’s been in there for ages, she’s putting her makeup on.’

“First of all, I’m entitled to put my makeup on in a disabled toilet. But secondly, I’m not putting my makeup on, I’m not hanging out in there for the sheer hell of it.

Tracey Emin is one of the UK’s best-known artists. Photo: Matt Crossick/PA

“So it wasn’t a performance thing, and if someone thinks it is they can swap places – all right, see how much they’d like to be a successful artist without a bladder.”

Emin, known for provocative works such as the tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With and My Bed, previously told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour she would consider reconstructive surgery after having many of her reproductive organs removed.

However, for now she said she is focused on enjoying life, despite suffering chronic pain.

Emin’s exhibition The Loneliness of the Soul, which pairs her recent artworks with those of Norwegian painter and printmaker Edvard Munch, reopens at the Royal Academy, London, next week.

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