Cancer battle prompted me to be a nurse

Dan GrimmerDealing with cancer is often devastating and distressing but a Norfolk woman used her illness to inspire her to turn her life around and is now a popular nurse and a successful artist.Dan Grimmer

Dealing with cancer is often devastating and distressing but a Norfolk woman used her illness to inspire her to turn her life around and is now a popular nurse and a successful artist.

Wendy Kimberley battled thyroid cancer 12 years ago and the care and treatment she received at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital motivated her to take nursing up as a career.

The 41-year-old from Wymondham also started painting when she was studying to become a nurse and using her illness and her work for ideas she has created some striking pieces linked to life, death and creation.

Mrs Kimberley is now a busy mother-of-four - a nurse on Holt ward at the N&N and in her spare time taking part in exhibitions to showcase her work.

Her husband Tony, 42, a fleet manager, said his wife is an inspiration and proof that illness does not need to hold you back.

She said: 'My illness was a long time ago now but it did make my life change direction. I was in the old Norfolk and Norwich and I just found the care amazing and staff so wonderful.

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'Even though we were ill there was such a positive atmosphere and I was so impressed I thought I wanted to do it too. I was working as a waitress at the time and I had also done some hairdressing but none of that compared to nursing.

'I wanted to give something back and I am so glad I did because nursing is such a rewarding profession.'

Mrs Kimberley had just given birth to her twins, Joseph and Aaron, now 13, when she became ill. She noticed a lump in her thyroid gland and after several GP and hospital appointment she had half of it removed.

Fortunately the cancer had not spread and her treatment was limited to the surgical procedure without needing radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

She soon embarked on an access course at City College before embarking on a three-year nursing course at the UEA and she left with a first-class honours degree.

It was during her studying she progressed with her artwork.

'I was spending a lot of time in front of a computer working hard and art was a way of taking time out,' she said. 'I was so stressed and art was respite, it was a way of relaxing.

'I used my illness to give me ideas for painting and the way I interpret death and the afterlife. When you are faced with mortality it is difficult to put it into words so painting was an outlet for me. I also work with elderly people at the hospital and while many get better and go home some don't and it is very painful for families. It means I often think about life and death and transfer these thoughts to my painting.'

As well as their twins the couple also have two daughters, Alice, 18 and Laura, 20, who decided to study medicine in London after hearing her mum's stories of being a nurse.

Mr Kimberley said: 'My wife has been through a lot but is a fantastic nurse and a great artist as well as a brilliant wife and mother.

'She became inspired after her care at the hospital and we are so proud of what she has achieved.

'Her story is definitely inspiring and helps people see that there is not only life after serious illness but that the experience can open up whole new areas for people.'

An N&N spokesman said: 'We employ many staff with many varied talents outside of their clinical work.

'It's great to see Wendy's developed a real flair for art and her story underlines just how important it can be to someone's recovery from illness to focus on a passionate interest in creative work or other interests.'

Mrs Kimberley has taken part in three exhibitions organised by Russell Ruski Keane which were held at St Margaret's Church in St Benedict Street, Norwich.

The next one, where her art will be displayed, is a two-week exhibition, starting on June 7 at the church.

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The N&N is currently running its Patient Choice awards. To nominate someone visit the website of our sister paper at, or call 01603 289821 for a copy of the nomination form.

Have you got a heart-warming story to tell? Contact Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email