I stood on the edge of a black hole


Ibrahim Mahama – Kwaku Minoona 2 (2012-2019)


It’s been an emotional day for me today.

I was diagnosed with severe and deep-seated Endometriosis in 2017, and in November of that year, I was told I urgently needed surgery. 

I was put on what are essentially chemotherapy drugs for prostate cancer, to stop further damage while I waited for said surgery. 

These drugs are massively controversial. Many people have severe and non-reversible life-long reactions to them – but I trust my consultant (I did a lot of research and specifically chose him), and, despite them only being recommended for 6 months with Endo, 20 months later I am still on them.

20 months, 627 days to be precise, later and today was the long-awaited day.

‘Laparoscopic radical resection and rectovaginal endometriosis, rectal disc excision and cystoscopy … uterine… (can’t read his writing)… +/- bowel resection +/- colostomy’

That’s what I signed up for this morning. 

I went through the whole admission process before they told me that my colorectal surgeon (NOT the gynaecologist hero I have waited all this time to be operated on by, but the other surgeon, who I have never met) had been called away to an emergency and despite checking every colorectal surgeon possible, nobody was free to do my surgery.

I blubbed like a baby. Loudly. For quite some time. 

I was nil-by-mouth, and anyone who knows me will know that this is NOT a good state for me at any time. Definitely not the state I would choose to receive undoubtedly one of the most devastating pieces of news I’ve ever had.

Does that sound melodramatic? Possibly. But if you knew the extent to which Endo affects my life, how I use a walking stick, how I cannot walk up to the shops 300yds from my house without stopping to rest, how I had to cancel my whole summer’s work (I work freelance so no going back on that), how I had planned my son’s every move for his entire summer holiday meticulously, the list of preparations is endless and I won’t go on, apart from anything else, it’s pretty depressing right now!

Anyway, after a cup of tea (yup, the answer to all problems in the UK…) we walked away from the hospital. 

Walked out just as we had walked in. Only 3 hours after arriving. We were leaving. On foot. The two of us, in state of shock I can still barely describe. 

The Whitworth Gallery (Manchester) is opposite and has a lovely cafe, glass-walled on three sides and we sat and ate and drank more tea. Taking in our options. 

When to return home. Whether to use the apartment we had booked for a week. Whether to get our son to come up. Whether to travel during the heatwave. Whether to try to get a refund on the apartment. Whether we could claim on insurance. Whether we could still go on holiday with our friends we always holiday with this week of the year. Whether. Whether. Whether.

And then we went to see an exhibition in the gallery. Matt had been a few weeks ago and knew I would love it.


Ibrahim Mahama – Kwaku Minoona 1 (2012-2019)


Ibrahim Mahama. Born in Ghana in 1987. (A positive baby, right?!)

Textile art made from material, mostly wax prints, industrially printed in Holland, China, Ghana and some from Manchester itself. Often the fabrics once belonged to women, who have since worked with the artist, their clothes, bags, baby carriers even a funeral cloth. He also incorporates strip woven textiles, hand made in the north of Ghana. Worn as a symbol of independence, Mahama says these materials, handed down generation to generation, were they to be washed, would break the chains of unique familiarity to a family.

The colours, designs, patterns in these pieces and the way they have been brought together bring out such a quiet and uplifting emotional response in me, but it was these photographs (that I, unfortunately, do not have titles for – they are the names of to whom the arms belong) that reminded me of perspective in life.


Many of the collaborators Mahama makes his work with travel from rural communities in North Ghana to find labouring work in the cities in the south. They tattoo themselves with their names and relatives in case they are hurt or killed on the roads or at work. 

Mahama has photographed them here against historic colonial maps and decayed leather train linings from the area they travel across.


Ibrahim Mahama – Parliament of Ghosts (2019)


It was sitting on the train seats of Parliament of Ghosts though, second class seats salvaged from twentieth-century trains from Ghana Railways, that I stopped and really breathed.

Several people, in the last few days, have asked me how I felt about the surgery.

The only way I could describe it was like being on the edge of a black hole. 

I didn’t know if I couldn’t imagine, or my brain wouldn’t let me imagine, but I had no idea of my future for the foreseeable future. 


A completely dark space with no indications at all as to how or when I would see the other side.

For now, the chasm has abated. For how long, right now, I have no idea.


Ibrahim Mahama – Parliament of Ghosts (2019)


One response to “I stood on the edge of a black hole”

  1. Dear Rebecca ,
    We don’ know you well, and that is our loss, but, talking to Sheila and reading your account of your delayed operation moved us to tears. Diana had open heart surgery so we can understand a little what you have been through and how much courage it takes to cope . We shall be thinking of you and and for now can only hope that the operation is rescheduled soon. We send you Matthew and George our love and every good wish for the future.
    Ben and Diana xxxx


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