Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Words to Live By: The Finale

My friend Jeanine is surviving and thriving after breast cancer.

On Saturday, I went to visit Jeanine and help her hang up the last of the canvases for the Words to Live By Project.  Once we went through the process of measuring, hanging, and straightening the canvases, we stood back in awe of the final product - both with a feeling of astonishment and nostalgia.  On the wall hung 54 paintings, each representing a week in Jeanine's life since being diagnosed with breast cancer.  As we stood and looked at the collection, we began analyzing each row of paintings and sharing which one in each row was our favorite (because it was just too hard to pick one).  To capture the moment, Jeanine grabbed her Flip video camera and recorded this impromptu interview with me about the project.

But rather than go on and tell you about my perception of the project, I thought I would invite Jeanine to be a guest blogger (my first!) and share with you what the Words to Live By Project has meant to her over the past year.

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What has the WTLB Project meant to me?

When I got cancer, I quickly saw how difficult it was for the people around me.  I also did NOT see how difficult it was for some people because many people disappeared out of my life.  They did not know what to do, so when in doubt, chicken out, I guess.  Diana was never and will never be one of those people.  She has been one of my go to girls during the last year.  If I was going to chemo for the first time, you would find  her by my side.  If I was put in isolation at the hospital, you would find her all decked out in a beautiful yellow smock and a mask keeping me company.  If I was going to have a party, you would find her leading the charge as my party planner.  If I was sick in bed, you would find her willing to just sit in the bed and talk.  So it is not surprising to me that she jumped in with her gifts and talents and created the Words to Live By Project that would help sustain me for the 54 weeks to come.

Final Words to Live By
Photo courtesy of Jeanine

Diana was an integral shopping and designing partner when I created my home office 3 years ago.  She was with me as I purchased almost every single piece of furniture or decoration for the space and it looked great - except for the massive wall behind my desk that is the focal point when you walk in the room.  We looked everywhere for art for the space and quickly realized that we had polar opposite tastes.  We could agree on everything but art.  I told her at the time, that when the right thing comes along, we will know it.  Little did I imagine that I would have to get cancer to find just the right art to finish off my office decorations!

Final Words to Live By
Photo courtesy of Jeanine

When Diana gave me my first Words to Live By piece, I was blown away.  Yes, the art was amazing and the quote was wonderful.  But this was also the first person who I felt understood the need for me to look and plan ahead.  Cancer was going to be tough, but more importantly, I was going to need to focus on enjoying the journey.  I had been struggling with accepting the idea that I could live or die and that I had no way of knowing what was going to happen.  I decided very early on that the way that I dealt with cancer from the very beginning was going to determine who I was as a person - not the cancer.  The Words to Live By Project helped frame the year ahead.  It was going to be tough, but each week was a week that I could put behind me and focus on celebrating the good parts of the week.  Diana chose unbelievable quotes to use and highlighted my real life through the artwork and the quote that she picked - each of which was spot on.  Her project was an artistic journal for my year.

Final Words to Live By
Photo courtesy of Jeanine 

Diana has an amazing gravity.  When she is around you, you want to be pulled into it because it is full of light, hope, love, caring, and sparkle!  The Words to Live By Project was my own way of staying in her gravity, even on the bad days.  In the really horrible days following chemo treatments, I would sit in my office and stare at the wall of art being built.  I would focus on being able to read and process each piece of art.  Processing was a real struggle at times, but never with her art.  It was soothing and asked nothing of me in return.  I can remember my excitement when the first row was hung (9 pieces!) that signified that I was 1/6 of the way done with the first year of treatments.  The wall was the constant.  It kept moving forward even when I felt like I was moving backward.  The treatments got harder, but the wall kept propelling me towards a finish line in my head.

Final Words to Live By
Photo courtesy of Jeanine

There is a part of me that is thrilled that the project is over because it signifies a long year full of challenges facing a disease I never wanted.  There is another part of me that will miss the project, because it is an amazing feeling to know that someone loves you each and every week and was thinking of how to make a difference in my life through her gifts.  Who wouldn't miss that?  But instead, I am going to think of the gifts that I have and try to do the same thing for someone else.  The Words to Live By Project is full of individual quotes and paintings, but the real message is that I am loved by a very special woman - a woman that each week helped me realize that I still had the best of my life ahead.  Thank you my dear, sweet, wonderful friend!

3 comments:

  1. What an awesome and inspiring wall!

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  2. What a wonderful read! I have really enjoyed seeing these on the blog and reading and thinking about the quotes. I don't know Jeanine and have been inspired and awed by what I learned you her here on this blog. Cancer touches all of us in some way because we either go through it ourselves or we know someone who is or will. This is such a neat project and I am so glad to see such a happy ending! Congrats girls, this is every bit as cool as you two are ;)

    p.s. have been on your lphop (is that right?) page and am cheering you on with it as well!

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