An inspired journey: How one Marco artist dealt with an all-too-common cancer diagnosis
It’s an experience too many women have gone through. Last October, a routine mammogram detected cancer in Malenda Trick’s right breast. The local artist had surgery in December to remove the tumor, followed by four weeks of radiation.
“They said I could have it slow or fast, and I chose fast,” said Trick. “I did get a bad sunburn on one breast.”
You might call Malenda Trick a ‘veteran painter.’ While she has been applying brush to canvas for many years, Marco-based artist Trick is best known on the island for her patriotic artwork, as well as paintings of historical figures displayed outside the Marco Island Historical Museum. She created a series of portraits of “greatest generation” military veterans, and painted a massive mural, 18-feet wide and double-sided, depicting the service of Floridians and other Americans in World War II, that toured the country being displayed at museums and veteran-related events.
Sitting in the living room of the second-floor waterfront apartment she shares with husband Clark Shaw, where a Christmas tree stands in the middle of June, part of an intense interior design scheme dominated by Trick’s artwork, the couple shared a too-familiar scenario, in which the partner who would typically serve as unofficial full-time caregiver deals with their own health issues.
Just as Malenda’s health took a downturn last winter, Shaw, who has limited mobility and uses a walker, and a powered lift to get him up the stairs to their condo, went into a downturn – and the hospital.
“I had a kidney stone. I fell, it broke, and I had three surgeries,” said Shaw. “Even with her stuff, Malenda was in the hospital with me every day.”
The two met when he was referred to her to serve as her divorce lawyer, then had to bow out of the case when they became romantically involved. When they wed in 2001, it was his second marriage, and her fourth. Whatever they bonded over, it probably wasn’t their tastes in alcoholic beverages. Shaw is a serious French wine aficionado, while Trick’s quaff of choice is a can of Miller Lite.
Trick said that while her Veterans’ Day Project artworks benefit the soldiers who served, she has benefited as well.
“I’ve met more wonderful people, people who bleed red, white and blue, these people who gave so much to our country, and they have become my friends,” she said. Her efforts earned her the 2014 Artist of the Year award from MIFA, the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts.
Over the years, Trick has been amazingly prolific, turning out portraits, European scenic paintings, still lifes, designs for licensed products such as handbags, puzzles and Lenox figurines, nudes and portraits of many prominent Americans, and more, all in oils. Asked how many paintings she has created, she has a ready answer: “Eighty thousand,” which she acknowledges is a rough estimate. But that would translate to 1,000 paintings a year for each of 80 years, or three a day, and Trick hasn’t been painting that long in any event. But it’s a lot of work.
Along with other local artists, Trick has gallery space upstairs at the Shops of Old Marco. Fellow painter Betty Newman, who shares the Local Color gallery, said what Trick has gone through is all too familiar a story.
“So many of us are going through this. I had breast cancer a couple of years ago,” said Newman in an email. “She is going through very similar reactions that I have had and am having. The prescribed medication is a cancer pill that gives you night sweats. It also makes you tired. Because you had lymph nodes taken you have pain in your arm. You hold your breath when it’s time for another mammogram. Is it back?”
Like Trick, Newman is now counted as cancer-free. But that doesn’t stop the gnawing worry.
“We always hope everything is fine with every mammogram. Every six months. I know of women who have had it return. Sometimes I think it’s an epidemic here on Marco,” said Newman.
Many friends only learned of Trick’s bout with cancer when she declared it was done with. Well wishes poured in on her Facebook page.
Trick accepts commissions for portraits or other paintings for “$750 and up,” said Shaw. You can see her work, and often Malenda too, at the Local Color Art Gallery in the Shops of Old Marco, or online at malendatrick.com.