In February 2011, my husband Alex Horsley and I had just returned from an art show in Boca Raton where I had been exhibiting my work. Alex became ill, we thought it was some kind of –bug' he had picked up from festival food. It was not '“ he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. For three weeks he lay close to death in Piedmont hospital, fighting off numerous bacterial diseases. We had arranged for him to be treated at MD Anderson in Houston, but we could not get him there as he was too ill to travel. In April we finally made it to Houston and for the next six months we travelled back and forth while he had chemo and radiation. The goal was for him to get the Whippel Surgery.
In September we were told that the cancer had spread and there was nothing more they could do. –He will fade in the winter – we were told, –and succumb in the Spring.' That was not to be as he died on December 1st, 2011 in our bedroom at home.
Meanwhile on November 1st, I attended the funeral of a close friend who had died of complications from the Whippel Surgery. Alex and I had attended her wedding to Ted Heintz. I returned from the funeral and told Alex I could not do a funeral for him, as watching Ted's grief and that of all the attendees was too overwhelming. Alex hugged me and replied –That's ok my darling, You don't have to have a funeral for me because I'll be dead and I wont care!' Very typical of this beloved man. A week later he held me close and said –Ted will be a good friend to you because he –gets it'.' Well Ted and I grieved for the next year and then in October 2012 our friendship became a deep love for each other. In March 2013 while attending Ted's father's funeral, we got the news that a routine test had come back that indicated he probably had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I suggested we get engaged that night while all his family was there and so we did.
Ted has had a bone marrow transplant as have two of his 4 brothers. A 3rd brother was his donor. The transplant was June 1 2013. Ted is now cancer free but is ravaged by Graft Versus Host disease. Specifically his skin is affected. This necessitates his being an outpatient in one of three hospitals 5 days a week. Meanwhile I am working on a book about Alex and my journey with pancreatic cancer called –Applause.' I had written a daily blog which was read by 65,000 people all over the world. The caring Alex received, not just medically, but also from our friends inspired so many folks. I have had an offer for a movie to be made and for that to happen, it needs first to be in book form.
Gillian Theunissen Horsley is an Atlanta and Hilton Head based artist with national and international collectors. She travels extensively internationally and uses her photographs as prompts for her acrylic paintings, which she executes in her studios. Her unique approach to painting wildlife as well as sea and landscapes has earned her a place in juried fine art festivals throughout the country, as well as in regional galleries. Her piece –Sunset Over the Marsh' was selected in a national competition to be featured in the American Association of University Women's 2011 calendar. Gillian was born in South Africa, surrounded by plentiful sunshine and abundant wildlife. At university she majored in Drama and English and took two semesters of Art History. Her work as a global educator has taken her to all five continents. Wherever she goes, her camera goes with her, and it was a natural progression for her to move from photography into painting. She started painting in an adult class at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta in 2005 and since then has taken classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Chastain Park and the Spruill Center. In 2006 she was invited to show her work in a local gallery, and since then has increasingly gained an ever-widening circle of collectors. As her work depicts scenes across the globe, it was a natural segue that her work would be collected internationally. In 2015 she started a line of –Useable Art' in which she has taken some of her sailboat paintings and turned them into coasters, and paper napkins and plates. This side of her work has grown extensively and can be purchased at many museum gift stores on the eastern seaboard. Although she is now proudly a citizen of the United States, Gillian's South African roots are evident in her work through her strong use of color, texture and love of –big skies.' Her –impressionist' approach to painting African wildlife was born from the ubiquitous dust of the game preserves. Gillian loves the coast and her keen interest in birds is seen in her shore bird canvases She enjoys the challenges of the creative process and is recognized for her unusual triptychs featuring different sized canvasses in the same work. Through her art, Horsley strives to have her audience partner with her in experiencing the exuberance of creation.