Cancer survivor inspires through heart and art

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter


What: Anything Goes show by Art Matters Group

Where: Sunset River Marketplace, Calabash

When: Through Nov. 3

CALABASH—Sue Ruopp and her art were all gussied up for their latest reception last Saturday at Sunset River Marketplace.

Ruopp is a survivor in more ways than one.

In addition to being one of the featured artists in the “Anything Goes” multi-artist show by the gallery’s Art Matters Group, the retired labor-and-delivery nurse is a survivor of breast cancer and two brain tumors.

Ruopp now immerses herself in her eclectic style of art ranging from pastels and acrylics to watercolors and pencil drawings.

What is the work the “unschooled” artist is showcasing at the show?

Ruopp describes the work as a “series of feng shui corrections” needed around the house—water for the back of the house, for example, or maybe some mountains.

“The second one is in the bathroom,” Ruopp said. “I’m not proud. I’ll hang them where everybody can see.”

One of Ruopp’s creations is of wine, another of roses.

“I wanted to see if I could stretch my own canvas, so I did,” Ruopp said.

She’s pleased with how her work turned out.

“Most artists are using photographs for inspiration,” she said. “Most of my art is in my head.”

She also likes to use a five-hair brush to etch out leaves and bark.

“Most people don’t need that much detail, but I’m having too much fun,” Ruopp said.

Most of all, she said she’s surviving.

Ruopp is legally blind in her left eye following a corneal injury. After that, the hospital where she’d worked for 19-and-a-half years in New Jersey “retired” her.

“I said, ‘You had me eight years with poor balance and deafness,’” Ruopp joked. “What’s a little blindness?”

So in 2006, she and her husband Carl retired to the Meadowlands community off Calabash Road instead.

“I had always worked fulltime,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to balance working and having money for extra things. I really felt labor-and-delivery was a calling.”

She worked with people who were “technically fabulous.”

“My best spot was the people,” Ruopp said. She had a magic touch and patience with patients.

She once tore both rotator cuffs helping a patient through a particularly difficult delivery, “but she delivered a healthy baby vaginally,” Ruopp said with pride.

She was diagnosed with her first brain tumor in 1991.

“I was 39, so [turning] 40 didn’t bother me at all,” Ruopp said.

“This is all in the past, because I don’t pay a lot of attention to it,” she said. “I feel it’s important—the past changes with every telling. The future is but a dream. Now is the only reality. It lets you release a lot of stuff.”

Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, two years before her mom was also diagnosed. She opted for a lumpectomy.

“I was blessed because I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation,” Ruopp said. “You don’t tell a German-Irish girl she can’t.”

She worked hard to regain her balance and retrain her brain. She had total loss of hearing in her left ear. She watched tai chi tapes and returned to work in six months.

“If I wasn’t a healer, who was I?” Ruopp asked, adding she went and got more degrees, including a bachelor of science and master’s in holistic nutrition. She also achieved healing touch level 1, in which the energy of a person can be a conductor. She practiced Reiki. And she wrote novels.

After settling in Brunswick County, Ruopp started pursuing her latest calling as an artist.

Growing up, “I was told, ‘Sue, you can’t draw and you can’t sing,’” she recalled. “I still can’t sing.”


Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.