I’m starting a series on my blog. “Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration”. I’m inspired by strong women who show up every day and share their stories with the world. I’ll be interviewing women from all different life situations that I want to learn more about who inspire me to show up and live a better life story. And then I’ll share their stories with all of you (and my kids).
The first person I wanted to feature is my friend.
You know those e-mails you never want to get? Those ones that tell you one of your childhood friends has cancer. Yea, I got one of those. And though it was obviously devastating news, it’s turning out to be a defining period of my life.
Lisa, who I also affectionately call Nickell (her maiden name), and I met when I was 12. We played competition soccer together. So we’re not just friends, we’re teammates. We played soccer together for nearly 10 years.
She’s had more than her fair share of health problems. And then got hit with Stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma. A game changer to say the least.
No one wants to hear the word cancer associated with themselves or someone they love. But along with the hell associated with cancer, there is also an element of hope. A look into the human spirit at its finest, bravest moments.
She decided to shave her head before chemo started taking her hair. She wanted to be in control of whatever she could. So I asked her if I could photograph the “hair funeral”. Watching her shave her head was one of the bravest things I have ever witnessed. Those pictures are still too painful and intimate for her to share, but here are a few after she was done.
Here is the interview I did with her. And stick around until the end cause we’re doing something really cool for her (that can also be used as a template for other people to use for those they love with cancer) and I NEED your help!!!
1. Give me a quick peek at your story: I was born and raised in Utah. I played soccer since before I can remember. I played in high school for Alta. I’ma lover of all sports and outdoor activities. What I lack in size, I made up for in my determination. I’m very competitive. I went to nursing school and met my amazing husband at the University of Utah. I’ve been married for 11 years. On September 5th our life changed when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. I’ve been battling for my life ever since.
2. Tell me an “every day moment” you are grateful for: Right now, I am grateful for waking up alive each day. Getting to tell my family that I love them, and giving my niece a hug.
3. What is one ambition you have right now: I want to start a health clinic on wheels for the homeless. Similar to the 4th Street Clinic, but mobile.
4. If you could speak on anything to a large group of women, what would you talk about? That one single person can make a difference. You, alone, can make a change in the world. You don’t need thousands of dollars and thousands of people to help make a difference. What you, alone choose to do each and every day can change someone’s world.
5. What does the phrase “create a good life story” mean to you? To me, it means living every single day to its fullest. Live each day like it could be your last.
6. Tell me something someone taught you that made an impact on your life Right before my grandma died, she told me to never hesitate to tell someone that you love and appreciate them. Don’t assume that they already know. It’s okay if you told them yesterday…say it again. If you’re feeling it in the moment, say it.
7. Name one event in your life that has made the greatest impact on the course of your life story Becoming a wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Also, going to Haiti.
8. What is something you want to accomplish you haven’t yet? I want to have children
9. What photographs are you most grateful for from your childhood or teen years? I’m most grateful for photos of my family and close friends. I’m relying a lot upon those people right now, and it’s comforting to look back at older photos and see that it’s the same group of people that have continually supported me through whatever life throws my way.
10. What are you most proud of? Never quitting. Never giving up.
11. Tell me something you are sure of: I’m sure there is a level of happiness that comes from serving someone else that can’t be reached any other way.
12. What is your favorite quote or your life motto? I have two: “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Martin Luther King Jr., and “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” Gandhi
13. What is your favorite part about yourself (not a physical trait)? I really care for those less fortunate than me, and try to do whatever I can to help them.
14. What type of photographs do you wish you had more of? I wish I had more photographs from my honeymoon and dating my husband.
15. What is something you do to help drive away fear or anxiety? I used to exercise to drive away fear and anxiety. Now, I hand out hamburgers to the homeless.
And for fun:
Favorite Book: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Favorite Family tradition: Dutch Oven Cook off at the cabin
Something you enjoy doing with your spouse: playing tennis
Talent you wish you had: I wish I could play a musical instrument
Favorite meal: It changes weekly. Right now I would say it’s cantaloupe. Yep, just cantaloupe
If you never had to do one specific things again, what would it be: Go through a round of chemo. Or, on a lighter note, fill the car with gas
Favorite show on TV: Vampire Diaries
Something that scares you: Dying without having told my family I love them first
Favorite thing about your husband: Brian can always make me laugh. It doesn’t matter what trial we’re facing he helps me face it with humor. And he is just so kind. Brian is the kindest man I know.
Type of candy you can’t life without: ALL CANDY. Anything you would find in the candy isle. I need it all
What’s something you think about often:
I think a lot about hunger in the world. People going hungry.
If you don’t know Lisa, you’re missing out. For those of us who get to call her a friend, well, we’re pretty lucky. She’s definitely one-of-a-kind. She’s nearly killed me (literally) on several different adventures we’ve been on together. Once in a very sketchy mini-van ride, another where I nearly drowned. I blame her for my fear of water.
Here’s where I need your help. For any of you who know and/or love someone with cancer, you know how brutal it is. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. The days are long. The weeks even longer. Because her cancer is so severe, she has to be admitted to the hospital each time she receives chemo. She stays there for at least 6 or 7 days, often more, at a time.
It gets lonely. And hard. And scary. And there are days where all she can do is draw on the strength of others. Her walls in the hospital are lined with pictures of people who love her. To remind her why she’s fighting.
Right now, she needs something more than ever to take her mind off what is still ahead. She still has a long way to go–more chemo, then a bone marrow transplant.
Lisa is famous for her “peace sign” in pictures. Always flashing that peace sign.
So. We (she’s in on this) want to collect as MANY pictures of people flashing the peace sign as we can and put them in a huge collage (I’m talkin’ huge) for her to hang on the wall in the hospital and in her home. Even if you don’t know her, we’d love for you to participate. My guess is we ALL know someone affected by cancer (it’s so rampant) so we know how desperate people get for hope. And when Lisa sees pictures of people doing the peace sign with HER in mind, it brings her hope. And peace to her soul.
There is strength in numbers. And strength in knowing people are thinking about you and people CARE.
We’ll be collecting pictures for ONE WEEK. Deadline is next Thursday, March 27th. Doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just a picture of you, your kids, co-workers, family, strangers, whatever doing the peace sign. Then e-mail it to me. firstname.lastname@example.org Please title the e-mail “PEACE PICTURE” so we don’t lose any. That’s it. (You can e-mail it directly from your camera phone. If you don’t know how to do that, ask a kid. They’ll know how:) )
You can also send more than one picture with different groups of people. We’ll take as many as we can get.
Once we have them, we’ll make a killer poster. And post it so everyone can see. And hopefully make it into a useable template for anyone else who wants to use it to do a similar project for someone they love with cancer.
Thanks in advance for your help. My friend needs a boost. A push to keep fighting. She’s a fighter. But no one can fight cancer alone.
Love you Nickell.
We now declare the following week “Peace Sign Picture” week. I gave myself power to do that.
To read more “Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” interviews, CLICK HERE.