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Art by UHS cancer patient to be featured on Lilly website

February 21, 2017

Sue Mikalajunas started a felt artwork project to occupy her mind as she was battling cancer.

Now her 8-by-10-inch design in alpaca fiber has been selected for a national exhibition of artworks by oncology patients.

"This is a great honor, and I really appreciate everyone's interest in it," she said of the decision by Lilly Oncology to feature her art on its website in April.

Over the past decade, "Lilly Oncology on Canvas" has provided individuals affected by cancer an opportunity to tell their personal stories through art and narrative.

Thousands of participants across the country have been inspired to share their experiences with countless other people worldwide.

In the past 10 years, more than 4,400 entries have been received, with hundreds of exhibitions held to feature the works.

Ms. Mikalajunas retired a few years ago after 30 years with Broome County Social Services.

Three years ago she was diagnosed with cancer, has had surgery at UHS Wilson Medical Center and continues to receive chemotherapy at the UHS Cancer Care Center.

“When I finished my felting project, I decided to submit it as an entry, just to see what would happen,” she said. “Then I received a letter telling me that it was selected.”

In felting, the artist uses large needles to puncture a canvas and press in pieces of alpaca or merino wool.

Ms. Mikalajunas calls her creation, “My Journey Through Cancer.” It depicts a progression from a tunnel to flames to an open window.

“It shows my resolve to emerge from that window a winner,” she said.

Her Lilly Oncology entry was also a natural extension of her overall felting hobby, which she has been involved with for years.

“I love making blankets and hats as well,” she said. “It’s a challenge, which I like.”

But her greatest hurdle in life has been coping with her cancer diagnosis and treatment, and everything that accompanies the process of dealing with the disease.