'I am so proud of Josh - I am just upset that he couldn't see it'
When 23-year-old Josh Ward died in February this year, it marked the end of four years of intensive treatment.
Despite this, throughout his illness one of the things that consistently put a smile on his face was taking photographs.
Josh was a talented artist who had studied media at Sheffield College, and during his treatment began taking photographs of the Derbyshire countryside, sometimes even being taken out in to the hills in his wheelchair by his family.
It was during this period that Josh had the idea of creating an art exhibition to showcase the talents of young cancer sufferers.
Sadly, Josh died before the show’s debut, but his dad Paul was at last week’s launch in his place, along with the rest of the Ward family.
He said: “I am so proud of Josh. I am just upset that he couldn’t see it. He would have loved it. The show just proves that these young people are not patients – they are still people.”
“Josh loved his photography. It took his mind off what he was going through.”
Josh, who came from Bamford in Derbyshire, was just 20 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma in September 2014, after finding a lump on his face the Christmas before.
He was given the all clear in April 2015, but in January the following year was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
He underwent further treatment over the next year, including chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, but sadly relapsed and passed away in February 2018.
Josh’s consultant Harpreet Kaur was also at last Wednesday’s launch.
She said: “I think it is important to see the people behind this big ‘C’. I always remember Josh had a smile for two things – his photography and his niece. Even in his worst days they would cheer him up.”
Inspired by Josh’s story, the CLIC Sargent Art Show 2018 features work by eight young people aged 7 to 23, all with experience of cancer diagnosis.
The exhibition - which is taking place at The Circle gallery in Sheffield city centre - features work including photography, poetry, hand-printing and oil on canvas.
Fran Allen, a CLIC Sargent young people’s social worker in Sheffield, worked with Josh throughout his four year illness.
She said: “Josh would have been so proud to see it and I think it would have made him happy.
“He didn’t like being in the limelight, but it was through his photography that he came out of his shell. That was when I saw the real Josh.”
At a launch event, dozens of people - including the families of the artists - helped mark the opening of the show.
Alex Donnelly, aged 23, from Lowedges, read his poem aloud at the launch. It approaches his experience of cancer with humour, which he says is his weapon against the disease.
“For me, humour is the best attribute you can have when you are facing something like this” said Alex, who has recently undergone surgery for a brain tumour.
“I was proud to be able to be part of this show because it proves that even with the limitations facing us, we are still people with something to say, and we want to share our story.”
Josanne Richardson, CLIC Sargent fundraising engagement manager, added: “At CLIC Sargent, we help young people to thrive, not just survive.
“This exhibition shows that children and young people are more than just their cancer diagnosis. They have talent and ambition, and that shines through in every piece of art we have here.”
The show runs until August 30, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, at The Circle on Rockingham Lane in Sheffield city centre.
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for children and young people with cancer, and supported all the artists featured in the show following diagnosis.