GREENSBORO — Connie Post remembers not wanting to be here.
“You come here not knowing,” she says of the waiting area at the Cone Health Cancer Center at Wesley Long Hospital. “It’s an anxious room.”
And after the diagnosis she did not want — “It is such a horrible word,” she says of cancer — Post would be back for a lumpectomy and later 25 sessions of chemotherapy.
Sometimes, as the artist waited for the next appointment, her eyes often aimlessly fixated on an empty wall with a trash can in front of it — the same wall where two years later she now stands looking at a wool rug from her self-described “Chemo Collection.” This piece, now behind plexiglass, has the look of a painting.
“This is my optic of going through chemotherapy,” Post told a group that gathered for the unveiling earlier this month.
The pink peonies emerging from gray designs became a symbol to Post that she wasn’t going to be beaten down by breast cancer.
“Look at that; that is absolutely gorgeous,” interjects her oncologist, Dr. Gustav C. Magrinat, who stops by for a glimpse. “It’s just breathtaking.”
The collection’s manufacturer, Rizzy Home, has donated a portion of the sales of the body of rugs and pillows to cancer research.
Post has shown her home furnishings collection during the High Point Market.
The author of “A Beautiful Room Will Change Your Life” gets teary-eyed at the journey.
“It’s very emotional for me,” Post says. “It’s like a validation as an artist, but it’s also a validation that I made it, and that I’m cancer free — and that’s a big deal to me.”
That includes seeing her peonies on the wall.
Cone Health has been very intentional about creating a nurturing space especially at the cancer center, which has original art pieces on the wall and a 2-acre healing garden largely maintained by volunteers — some of whom are former patients.
“Any object of beauty is a plus,” Magrinat says, “but this is an object of beauty created through chemotherapy, through pain, through ‘my immune system doesn’t work,’ through ‘I feel terrible,’ through the spirit triumphing.”
Post, who designs showrooms and stores, was blindsided with the diagnosis.
Cancer doesn’t run in her family.
She had support but says the only thing that kept her sane during that time was her work.
“On Day 11, all my hair came out,” Post says of the long blonde strands, “right there in the shower.”
The treatments were a blur, but soon there was a distraction— in a good way.
After first sketching designs in her mind and then down on paper, she contacted furnishings manufacturer Rizzy Home.
It wasn’t an easy sell at first.
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years,” says Steve Roan, managing director of Rizzy Home, The Americas division, who wasn’t so sure about picking up the designs. “When I’m looking at something, I’m going, ‘How many places can we sell it? What’s the return on the investment going to be and does it make sense?’ ”
He got a second opinion from his in-house expert on rug designs, who wanted to start the production right away.
The pieces are hand-produced in India, where the company is based, and affordable, said Larry Hedrick, the rug expert Roan was referring to who is also the company’s vice president of business development. The one hanging at the cancer center retails for $499.
“I knew people would want this in their homes,” Hedrick says.
To produce the pieces, the company provided weavers with almost cartoon-like drawings to scale and gave them specific directions down to how many lines of one color of the dyed wool to weave together and at what point to make the shapes and curves.
The designs are available directly from the manufacturer online and at various retailers, including design maven Martha Stewart’s website.
“Fortunately, I have been proven wrong,” Roan, the managing director, recalls at the unveiling. “This has been doing very well.”
As she worked with the company, Post told Magrinat about the effort.
“He’s so caring, and he was always asking me what I’ve been doing,” Post says of their usual banter back and forth about her travels. “I showed him samples of my rug and told him I did this during chemo. I said I’d love to be able to hang it in the hospital. He said, ‘I’m going to make this happen.’ ”
After going through channels at the hospital — including a committee that approved pieces — the piece was given that prominent place in the waiting room with lots of foot traffic. Its custom walnut and cedar frame was made by a company in High Point.
Post hopes others who sit in the chairs in that waiting room interpret the design the way she has.
“I hope to give someone else some peace of mind,” Post says, “and hope in their heart.”