Tag Archive | “Baring It All”

The Girl Who Put The V In Living Sincerely

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[Most friends/fans of The SCAR Project are familiar with this beautiful face. Many of you followed Vanessa Tiemeier’s journey via The Live Sincerely Project. This week marks the second anniversary of her passing. It has been a rough week for her family, the SCAR family/community, and all of us who loved the girl who put the V in living sincerely and left a V-shaped hole behind, in our hearts. For me, Facebook has been reminding me of all the lasts I got to have with her. #everydamnday. Like I’d forget or something. I haven’t forgotten, nor have I gotten over losing her presence in this world and in my life. And I hope I never do cuz how shallow would that be of me? Recently I was asked to write an article about Vanessa for SoHza magazine, honoring her memory. I thought I’d share an extended version of it here, along with a few extra pictures, because even though Facebook posted the last last on Feb. 23 when she took her last breath and went to her rest, I’m not done. Remembering V. I can’t write Vanessa’s SCAR story from her perspective. I hope someday to share her SCAR story from her husband Billy’s and her sisters’ Jess and Christina’s perspectives on this space. But in the meantime, in memory of Vanessa and in the spirit of living sincerely, here’s my story about my beautiful friend V.]

by Joules Evans

You know how a yes or no decision can sometimes feel like a coin toss…but then that yes or no somehow sends out some kind of a ripple effect that alters your course? Or how randomly bumping into a beautiful stranger at an art gallery in NYC can sincerely change your life? That’s what happened to me on a Saturday afternoon in October of 2010 when I got invited on a roadtrip to the Big Apple to see the world premiere of The SCAR Project and met Vanessa Tiemeier.

It was a Saturday afternoon on my first day in the city that never sleeps, and I was feeling the energy as I stepped into the holy hush of the exhibit, to take a private gallery tour with SCAR Project photographer David Jay and a few of the models who were on hand. I really didn’t know what I was walking into. It seemed like such a simple left turn into the gallery off Soho, but it ended up being more of that proverbial left that I shoulda taken in Albuquerque. And am so glad I did.

When my friend Shelly invited me to go to the opening with her during chemo one day, I remember thinking that I was already pretty breast cancer aware. I didn’t even Google The SCAR Project because really all I heard when she asked me to go with her was ROADTRIP TO NYC. Which meant, 10 hours in the car not the chemo lounge, and a weekend in the Big Apple that would take girls night out to a whole new level.

When I walked into the gallery and face to face with SCAR Emily’s portrait, I realized I was not as breast cancer aware as I thought I was. She was baring her scars AND a pregnant belly.

Emily

Her absolute reality, surviving cancer, was a completely different story than mine. Since I was 41 when I was diagnosed, I had already had my children, nursed my babies; they were all teenagers at that point in my journey. Emily had faced cancer, and was facing me, with child, without breasts.

And then I met Vanessa.

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She and her husband Billy were standing beside her SCAR portrait. When she shared her SCAR story, I learned more about her absolute reality of surviving cancer. SCAR stands for Surviving Cancer. Absolute Reality. It’s an awareness campaign that young women can and do get breast cancer.

Vanessa’s absolute reality of surviving cancer was completely different from both mine, and Emily’s. The truth is, everybody’s is. But I had never thought about it like that because I only knew my own reality. Bumping into Vanessa that day 5 years ago cracked me and mine wide open.

Vanessa was only 25, newly married, and she and Billy were ready to begin filling the quiver…when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Vanessa had always dreamed of a really full quiver. She and her sisters, Jessica and Christina, were always very close, both growing up, and as grown-ups. They’d even started a graphic design business called Blustery Day Design together. Vanessa wanted all that and more, for the children she dreamed of having.

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Christina, Vanessa, Jessica

Prior to that opening of the exhibit, Vanessa had already fought a second battle with the disease, bared her (new and old) scars again by posing for a second SCAR photograph, and shared her SCAR story in the EMMY award-winning SCAR documentary, Baring It All, by Patricia Zagarella.

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The SCAR Project meant so much to Vanessa, because, as she told me many times, being a graphic designer, she was way more visual than verbal, and this was the best way she could articulate her new reality. It was her way of showing the world what a young woman’s absolute reality of surviving cancer really looked like.

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A broken pinky finger, slammed in a drawer, and one precautionary Pet Scan later—which “lit up like a Christmas tree”—ended up as a Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. I don’t know what that feels like and I hope I never do, but she told me what it felt like to her. “I used to be super upbeat and positive like you after getting knocked around by breast cancer the first time. But the ultimate blow of hearing it’s back is a whole another story. Not so pink and fuzzy. Or hopeful. There is no cure. There is no finish line. There is only fight for your life for the rest of your life.”

The thing about Vanessa was that even though she knew she was living on “borrowed time” she was not going down without one helluva fight, nor having wasted that precious gift of time. Her mantra was LIVE SINCERELY, which she had tattooed on her left calf, with a pink peony, her favorite flower. That was her pink ribbon. Her message was basically, “don’t wait till you find out you are dying to really live.” This is how she lived and loved and fought. Fierce. Both for herself, and for other young women like her.

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And there she was, standing beside her SCAR portrait, sharing her SCAR story.

When she mentioned she was from Cincinnati, something sparked in me. As much as she was standing there, literally, beside herself, next to her portrait, I was feeling quite beside myself, to tell her that I was also a survivor from Cincinnati. I told her how moved I was by the exhibit, her SCAR portrait and story, not to mention the crazy beautiful serendipity of our meeting…and would she like to work together to try and bring the exhibit to Cincinnati? “Yes,” she said, simply. “Let’s bring it.”

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Somehow we did. Neither of us had ever done anything like producing a breast cancer event, let alone a major art exhibit before. We really didn’t know what we were doing. We fumbled around trying to find a proper venue for quite awhile. But then we met Litsa Spanos, owner of Art Design Consultants. When she heard about The SCAR Project, she offered to host the exhibit at her gorgeous “Gallery in the Sky” downtown.

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But it almost didn’t. After 6 months of intense planning. Two weeks before the opening of our Cincinnati SCAR exhibit, Vanessa, who’d been dealing with severe headaches, got a bad report from the scans. The disease had spread to the lining of her brain, requiring immediate radiation. We talked about canceling the exhibit but Vanessa’s response to that was basically “the show must go on.”

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Vanessa’s sister Christina Blust at the Cincinnati opening.

Somehow it did. All I know is that we were an awesome team. We ended up raising $13,500 for our chosen local beneficiary: The Pink Ribbon Girls, and $7,500 for The SCAR Project. All I know is it had everything to do with Vanessa putting herself out there as the face of young breast cancer in Cincinnati. All I know was getting to work with Vanessa on something so beautiful and so much bigger that us all, changed my life. And I know Litsa feels the same way.

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All I know is when the cancer wouldn’t back down, went to her brain, and kept progressing, Vanessa didn’t back down one bit either. She and her sisters created The Live Sincerely Project, to be her legacy, based on her motto. She spent the rest of her days sharing the project and encouraging people to take the pledge. A few of my last memories of my beautiful friend Vanessa, were of her hoping her movement would keep spreading, of her checking to see where in the world people had taken the pledge to Live Sincerely, and of her making 100’s of Live Sincerely signs with different fonts and borders. All I know is: Take that cancer. Vanessa won; you lost. She is free of you now but lives on in the hearts of everyone who was lucky like me to know her, or who will hear about Vanessa through The SCAR Project or her Live Sincerely Project. All I know is that despite everything you tried to throw at her, she still left a beauty mark that she was here.

When I think of Vanessa, I think she answered the poet Mary Oliver’s most poignant question so beautifully: “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” Live Sincerely.

RIP V

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The SCAR Project Toronto Exhibition—PRESS RELEASE

THE SCAR PROJECT ANNOUNCES TORONTO PREMIERE OF THE INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION—MARCH 28-APRIL 6, 2014

SCAR ImageMarch 3, 2014—The SCAR Project, the groundbreaking photographic exhibition created by fashion photographer David Jay is set to premiere March 28 at Edward Day Gallery, 952 Queen St West, Toronto Ontario.

The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors. On the surface an awareness raising campaign for young women, The SCAR Project’s deeper message is one of humanity. Ultimately, The SCAR Project is not about breast cancer, but the human condition itself; the images transcend the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all.

Sponsored by Rethink Breast Cancer, the world-renowned exhibition will open this year’s Breast Fest on March 28, 2014. This marks the first time the exhibition will be shown to Canadian audiences. The gallery will be open for public viewing March 28-April 6 (closed Monday). Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sunday by appointment. Admission is free.

A screening of the EMMY Award winning documentary about The SCAR Project: Baring It All will be shown at the Bloor Hotdocs Cinema at 3:30pm on Sunday, March 30. Tickets are $10. A Q&A session with David Jay will follow the screening. www.breastfest.ca.

For more information please contact :

Jennifer Rashwan, Touchwood PR  416.593.0777 x 205, jennifer@touchwoodpr.com

Alma Parvizian, Touchwood PR     416.593.0777 x 202, alma@touchwoodpr.com

For more information on The SCAR Project visit the website: www.thescarproject.org and www.thescarprojectblog.com. Follow @thescarproject on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information on Rethink Breast Cancer visit www.rethinkbreastcancer.com

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Ennobled By Her Scars

by Joules Evans

One of the loveliest perks of the role I get to play as exhibition coordinator and social media manager for The SCAR Project is collecting and sharing the SCAR girls’ stories here. Their portraits have impacted me (as they have you, as they have tens of thousands of others like you and me, who visit the exhibits, web site and follow the Facebook group) not only as a fellow breast cancer survivor but also on a basic human level.  Like SCAR photographer David Jay says, “The SCAR Project’s deeper message is one of humanity. The acceptance of all that life offers us . . . all the beauty . . . all the suffering too . . . with grace, courage, empathy, and understanding. Ultimately, The SCAR Project is not about breast cancer, but the human condition itself; the images intend to transcend the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all.”

The SCAR Project is filled with portraits of young women who have come to the place where, as Carly Simon described—from her own experience of having battled the bitch that is breast cancer—“she accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.”

Ennobled. Honestly, when I first heard about The SCAR Project from my friend Shelly while we were a pair of bald chicks hooked up to IVs in the chemo cocktail lounge, ennobled wasn’t the first word that popped into my head when I imagined a photographic exhibition of young women confronting breast cancer and baring their scars.

Road-trip. That was my first thought. Shelly and I met in the chemo lounge and the only time we’d ever spent together up to that point was in the chemo cocktail lounge, sitting side by side in pale blue recliners, waging the ugliest war either of us had ever fought and neither of us were feeling ennobled quite yet. But I was feeling like a road-trip to the Big Apple to see The SCAR Project Exhibition (which I hadn’t even Googled because she said it was an awareness campaign I already felt pretty breast cancer aware) sounded like just the ticket.

I wasn’t as breast cancer aware as I thought I was. I mean, I was aware of my breast cancer, my absolute reality of what surviving cancer, or at least fighting like hell to survive it, felt like, my scars. But then I saw Emily’s portrait at The SCAR Project Exhibition.

Emily

My scars are similar to Emily’s, but mine tell a different story. At the time of my diagnosis I was a 42-year-old mother of three teens. I nursed them all as babies. In Emily’s portrait I saw a beautiful young mother-to-be confronting a completely different reality of surviving cancer than me.

That quote from Carly Simon comes to mind when I think about standing in front of Emily’s picture, the first time I saw The SCAR Project. Especially, that word: ennobling.

I was super fortunate to get to meet a couple of the SCAR girls that day. I was on a gallery tour with SCAR Photographer David Jay, and Vanessa Tiemeier and Melissa Adams were both in attendance for the tour, standing beside their SCAR portraits, emanating beauty, courage, and grace. Eager to share their SCAR stories. Ennobled.

As their images “transcend the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all” so do their stories, and their lives, as well. And as I’ve gotten to know the SCAR girls over the past few years, I thought you might like to know some of the noble things these ennobled women are doing, to not just move forward, but to pay it forward.

Vanessa, who at 31-years-young has been battling breast cancer since she was 25, has long had a motto of living sincerely. She even has a live sincerely tattoo with a pink peony on her left calf. It’s her trademark “not a pink ribbon”.  Shortly after she was diagnosed with a recurrence of metastasis to the brain, she and her sisters founded The Live Sincerely Project to encourage others to LIVE… really live NOW… and not wait till they find out they are dying to start really living. If you haven’t checked it out and taken the Live Sincerely Pledge, it’s not just the best way you can send Vanessa a little love and encouragement, but don’t just do it “For V” Do it for you. That’s what she’d want, anyway, because that’s how she rolls, living sincerely as she goes.

SCAR girl Melissa Adams founded Cancer Fighting Princess to help meet the social, emotional, and physical needs of young women throughout their cancer journey.

SCAR girl Barbie Ritzco aka Soldier Interrupted aka Marathon Barbie is one of the most kickass inspirational people I know. Besides RUNNING ACROSS THE COUNTRY with Steve Cannon and his coast to coast for cancer million dollar fundraiser for Livestrong this summer, Barbie and her SCAR sister Sara Hamilton have co-founded Flat AND Fabulous, an organization supporting women who are living the “Flat AND Fabulous” lifestyle after having their breasts amputated from confronting breast cancer, rather than, for one reason or another, having gone the reconstruction route. There is a Flat AND Fabulous Awareness group HERE. If you are living the Flat AND Fabulous lifestyle and looking for others who have been there and done that click HERE.

On the other end of the spectrum, SCAR girl Cary Goldberg found that after rocking a flat chest for five years, her posture started to suffer and she needed a foundation garment to get her standing straight again. Frustrated by uncomfortable mastectomy bras that constricted the free flow of lymph and were just plain ugly, she was thrilled to discover a women run sports bra company called Handful. Once she tried on their pocketed sports bra, fell in love with it and learned it was already L8000 mastectomy bra approved, she became COO and part owner of the company. Handful is changing their manufacturing to Made in the USA and Cary dreams of making more products that help survivors as their four-woman company grows. Check out this video about Handful HERE.

Speaking of fabulous, SCAR girl Sylvia Soo founded Cancerfabulous to chronicle her own experience fighting back with style, to inspire, and as a resource for other young women fighting breast cancer. Sylvia is currently working on a book with Rethink Breast Cancer called, Cancer Fabulous Diaries, which is due out later this year. Her short film, Dear Sister won the Amazing Grace Award at Toronto’s Breast Film Fest last year. Sylvia is also one of the four women (as is Vanessa Tiemier) featured in the EMMY Award winning SCAR Project documentary, Baring It All.

Heather Salazar and Diana Featherstone both work with a non profit organization called the Pink Ribbon Girls, whose mission is to provide personalized support to young women throughout all phases of the breast cancer journey, and whose motto is: “No one travels this road alone”.

Amber Crouse founded (or rounded up;) the F*CK Cancer Posse. The Knoxville based commuity seeks to reach young cancer survivors and their caregivers/co-survivors so that they do not have to face cancer alone.

Jocelyn Banks founded Mommy Has Breast Cancer, an organization whose mission is all about supporting the entire family throughout a diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes organization grants wishes to young women diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, between the ages of 18-40 and facing a terminal diagnosis from their physician.

The SCAR Project Will Premiere in Birmingham in January With David Jay’s Alabama Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

THE SCAR PROJECT: BREAST CANCER IS NOT A PINK RIBBON                      

AND

THE ALABAMA PROJECT: THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF HEALTH CARE

TO PREMIERE IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA JANUARY 7-31, 2013

Birmingham, Alabama—December 6, 2012—Two groundbreaking photographic exhibitions shot by fashion photographer David Jay are set to premiere at University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Visual Arts Gallery: The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon and The Alabama Project: The Civil Rights of Health Care.

The dual exhibition opens January 7 and runs through January 31, 2013. There will be a ticketed opening night gala on January 11, 5-9pm. General admission to the exhibitions, is free. Private gallery tours with photographer David Jay will be available. Regular screenings of Baring It All, the EMMY Award winning documentary about The SCAR Project will be shown throughout the exhibition.

The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young women confronting breast cancer shot by fashion photographer David Jay. The SCAR Project puts a raw, unflinching face on young women and breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of the many brave, young women fighting this disease. The SCAR Project subjects range in age from 18-35 and represent the often overlooked, group of young women living with breast cancer in our country today. They’ve journeyed from across America and the world to be photographed for The SCAR Project. More than 100 women have been photographed thus far.

The Alabama Project: The Civil Rights of Health Care is a subset of The SCAR Project. In this project Jay documents a group of young women in Alabama, all in their twenties, battling not only breast cancer but the healthcare system itself. From hospital room to the living room, Jay’s poignant images capture each woman’s faith, perseverance, and beauty.

Producers: Cynthia Ryan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, UAB Birmingham & John Thomas Fields, Interim Director, UAB Visual Arts Gallery.

Sponsored by: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Susan G Komen North Central Alabama & Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust

Contact: Cynthia Ryan email: cynryan@uab.edu phone: 205.934.8600

For more information on The SCAR Project visit the website: www.thescarproject.org and www.thescarprojectblog.com. Follow thescarproject on Twitter and Facebook.

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