By Angela H. Hill
Everything these days touts the power of positive thinking—from motivational posters to self-help books to Facebook memes. More rare are real-life examples of what a winning mindset can accomplish.
Unless you’re talking with local ceramic artist David Lunt.
Lunt was diagnosed in April with Stage IV pancreatic cancer; a type of cancer with a 100-percent expected mortality rate. At first, he was given a couple of days to live. However, one stent, six rounds of chemo, and one powerfully positive outlook later, Lunt’s doctors now say he could have 10 to 15 years.
Lunt is up for seven total rounds of chemotherapy plus an operation to remove the tumor once it’s as small as possible. He has a 40 percent shot at surviving that surgery.
But rather than sit on his butt and feel sorry for himself, as Lunt quipped, this Patrick County resident made a huge batch of lemonade. Lunt has completed about 50 pieces of a 200-piece collection called Chemo Delusion, a series expressing the mental fog of “chemo-brain.”
He’s looking for a venue to host an October show for Chemo Delusion, and has committed to giving 100 percent of his art sales to Carillion Roanoke’s Blue Ridge Cancer Care.
His goal is two-fold: to bring the C-word into the light where people can talk honestly about the disease, and to raise money for patients who can’t afford treatment.
“Cancer is such a common word, but nobody wants to talk about it,” Lunt said. “People don’t want to look at their own mortality…you lose friends. But you do pick up friends along the way too; caregivers, like the girls on Ten South [at Carillion Roanoke].”
Lunt is on a cycle of chemotherapy: a rotation of five bad days followed by nine good days. The two days following intravenous treatment are the roughest. He’s candid about how the experience affects him, and the role chemo plays in his art.
“Chemo makes you feel like you’ve been run over by a steamroller,” Lunt said. “And it plays games with your head. Your short-term memory comes and goes. You don’t remember what you said two days ago…. It’s lonely. People say ‘I can’t imagine what it’s like.’ No, you can’t imagine. With this chemo, they’re giving you as much as they can without killing you.”
Several of Lunt’s vases are filled with holes, which Lunt made to represent “all the times I’ve been punctured; all the needles.” Other symbolism developed as he worked the clay, such as the large heart featured on one vase.
He gave the vases a transparent, rainbow glaze to highlight the structure of the vessels themselves. “[The glaze] captures movement. You can see there’s a body there [under the glaze] … When people see you have cancer, they look through you. They don’t want to see it.”
Proceeds for Patients
Lunt’s doctors are convinced the cancer won’t be what kills him, but regardless, he wants to spend whatever time he has left on what matters.
Just five rounds of chemo at Blue Ridge ran $134,000. The life-saving surgery to install the stent in April was $9,000. Lunt received help from several sources on those bills, and he wants to pay it forward by donating all show proceeds to patient care.
“All you do-gooders come on down!” he exclaimed. “It all goes to where it needs to be. A little gift might help them a lot.”
Lunt is also offering free lessons, and the use of his wheel and kiln to anyone in the community. His studio is located outside his home on Trot Valley Road. Students only have to purchase the clay, which is 22 cents a pound.
“I could have given back to the community more,” Lunt said. “But I’ve got time to make up for that, and time to play in the mud … I sit on my potter’s wheel and play in the clay and everything goes away.”
Lunt himself is thankful of those who’ve given much to him as well. He thanks Worley Machine for helping his wife Lois with her machine business by taking some jobs when the Lunts were busy with treatments. And there are “the girls on 10 South” at Blue Ridge Cancer, who don’t just come by and change bags, he said, but take time to talk to patients and share their personal experiences beating cancer.
Lunt encourages others with cancer, no matter how advanced the form, to stay positive and keep in mind how far treatment has advanced in just the past two years.
“I could sit there and cry about it, and blame God and say ‘Why me?’ First of all, you can’t blame God because he didn’t give it to you—or I can get up and appreciate what I have today. Beating cancer is 50 percent your mind, and family support is huge.
“Learn your disease and understand it,” Lunt said. “Don’t be afraid of it. Once you understand it you’ve got a better chance of surviving. It’s not a death sentence. More people are living with it than ever before. We will beat this disease.”
By Angela H. Hill
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