After Brain Cancer Diagnosis, Columbus Cook Changed His Career From Soldier To Artist

Columbus Cook artwork
Columbus Cook’s exhibit “Speak to Me” is on display at the Rialto Center for the Arts. (Credit: Courtesy of the Rialto Center for the Arts)

In 2018, Atlanta artist Columbus Cook was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, Glioblastoma specifically. This month, the Operation Desert Storm veteran retires from the military after serving 30 years, and his role has evolved from soldier to artist.

Cook’s first exhibit of multimedia abstract figures is on view at the Rialto Center for the Arts. It’s called “Speak to Me: Conversations with Cancer in Mind.” Columbus and his wife Val Cook spoke with “City Lights” producer Summer Evans in the studio.

Cook said he always wanted the chance to showcase his talent in the arts but thought it would happen after retirement. After his diagnosis and six-hour brain surgery, he decided to fully pursue his dreams.

With the help of an Optune device, a technological breakthrough that is extending his life, he has brought his artwork to life. Cook has also recycled pieces of his Optune device into the artwork itself.

“Incorporating the device was a great way to express myself and how I felt with these things. It helped me not look at it as a piece of material that is being attached to my head, but [a] part of my life,” Cook said.

This story was originally published with audio on

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