Inspirational cancer patient launches exhibition celebrating the heroes who cared for her

A creative cancer patient, treated at Charing Cross Hospital, has drawn inspiration from doctors and nurses supporting her through her treatment and created a photography exhibition in their honour.

Rina Dave, 52, of Maida Vale, London was told in March the devastating news that the breast cancer she had been battling for five years had spread to her lungs, liver and ribs.

To give herself a focus during the her treatment she decided to embark on a photography project that celebrated the 22 key people including doctors, nurses, family and friends supporting her through her cancer journey.

Six months later Rina has seen her dream realised with her exhibition ‘The People Who Are Keeping Me Alive’ now on display at Imperial College London.

“I wanted to create a series of photographs that celebrated what the team mean to me and their own individuality at the same time. I’m incredibly lucky to have such a huge team of people supporting me and keeping me alive. In the past it would only have been people like kings and queens who would have received this level of medical care.”

Rina, a television producer, has undergone chemotherapy at Charing Cross Hospital in London to manage the cancer at the same time as directing the photography alongside a team of friends.

She said: “We joke about it but I really believe that this is what is keeping me alive. It feels like the project has a life of its own. Everything seems to have just slotted into place with it.

“It’s been fantastic to work with such inspiring people and get to know them even better. It’s been a role reversal with the medical professionals – me telling them what to do for once. Everyone who I’ve asked to be a part of it has agreed and it has definitely bought us closer together.

“I also wanted to capture all the people around me who are my support network so it includes some of my friends and my mum who I persuaded to fly over from India to be photographed.

“It’s the project that is keeping me alive – I have seen the good side of people by working on it.”

The 22 giant photographs depict a wide range of people caring for Rina including her oncologist, GP, chemotherapy nurse and phlebotomist as well as her acupuncturist and her mum.

Each individual has been captured with a prop that is personal to them and shows the real person behind the vital role they are playing in Rina’s care and support.

Dr Katie Urch, lead cancer consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said:

“The Trust is very proud to have been able to support Rina through her treatment. Living with cancer can be all consuming so it has been very rewarding for our staff to help Rina realise her creative aspirations. It is very humbling to see the work of our people celebrated in this way.”

Rina said: “I hope people leave with the feeling that we are all connected to one another and we need each other to stay alive. We all matter to each other.

“Look at me, I’m a stage four cancer patient. I’m living with cancer, cancer is my new normal. I don’t know how long I have to live. At the minimum I will have at least a year but all I can count on is being here at this minute and making the most of it.

“I hope this project shows that with one another’s help beauty can come out of a situation when you are struggling against difficulty.”

The People Who Are Keeping Me Alive is on display at South Kensington Campus, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London from Monday 17th November to Sunday 30th November. Entry is free.

Notes to Editors:

Contributors who volunteered their time to work alongside Rina on the photography:
Sergey Saprygin, Peter Zeuthen, Judi Tweedie, Erica Procopis, Anuja Upadhyay, Kelly Gleason, Charlotte Klingholz