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Coventry woman portrays her battle through art

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Mary Courtney
Mary Courtney

From UK newspaper the Coventry Telegraph:


Coventry woman portrays her battle through art

By Lucy Thomson
Apr 14 2011

A FORMER intensive care nurse has launched a poetry and art exhibition to tell the story of her brave battle with M.E.

Mary Courtney from Earlsdon in Coventry was devastated when she was struck down with the chronic fatigue syndrome three years ago.

Once a fit and healthy woman – who had also previously worked as a university medical health studies lecturer, dancer and competing tri-athlete – Mary suddenly found herself lost.

But, determined not to be beaten by the cruel disease, which causes long-term tiredness and muscle pain that affects everyday life, the 48-year-old picked up the palette to help raise the profile of M.E.

A Story of Energy’, which tells Mary’s story of her struggle with the much misunderstood illness through eight paintings, haikus (Japanese poetry) and audio files explaining where the inspiration for each one came from, has opened at Friswells Art Gallery in Albany Road, Earlsdon.

She said: “It feels like returning to my childhood as I am doing what I loved at school – writing poems and painting.

“I hope people seeing my paintings and hearing my poems raise the profile of M.E. research, and by talking about it the organisations can invest more time and energy into understanding what triggers it and how recovery to some level of energy can be achieved.”

Mary started writing the poems in a notebook she kept by her bedside and in just seven days she had penned a selection of 47 haikus.

She entered one of the poems, called ‘Feeling Trapped’ in the National Poetry Competition and received the lift of her life when she received a commendation at the first time of entering.

She later entered a prestigious worldwide Cambridge University competition, and last year, two poems about her experiences as a nurse on the Nightingale Ward received double commendations in Warwick University’s first international medical poetry accolade – the Hippocrates Prize.

Mary said: “As quickly as the poems started, they stopped – and I was then encouraged to take up painting.

“The difference between the poems and the paintings were that the poems were fully formed in my head already – almost like they wrote themselves whilst I slept – whereas with the painting I had a thought, started with a blank piece of canvas and my mood and energy determined how the painting ended.”

She added that her achievements would not have been possible without the “overwhelming” support from her friends.

“When I had no energy my friends used theirs and without them, “A Story of Energy” would not be happening.”

Plans are underway for the exhibition to be installed at Warwick University Medical School before going on a worldwide tour and returning to London in time for the Olympic Games in 2012.

The exhibition will be open in Coventry until April 30.

For more information, visit


The article originally appeared here.



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