A model passes into eternity....   |   Sunday, February 10, 2013

We sincerly apologize for the absence in recording the lives and journey's of our amazing participants at The Oldham Project, but we've been incredibly busy.... but, let me again start fresh.

Marcia M. was only 39, incredibly beautiful and brave.

 Diagnosed only 1 1/2 years ago, with lung cancer and she was close to the end of her life then.
Coming to the Oldham studio at the end of fall 2012, she was active, excited about her photo shoot and really into the clothing and accessories she brought to her session! She was thrilled at the opportunity to have a 'model shoot' with all the loud music, fans and poses!

From the sounds of it, Marcia has grown up without many of the things that we so casually take for granted. She's lived a difficult life that is ending much in the same way... struggling for survival.

After having a wisdom tooth removed, the pain remained for almost a year, then developing into a lump/growth on the side of her jaw. By the time a concerned physician did some other testing, the tumors filled her torso and lung and liver cancer had developed and she was pronounced, 'terminal'.

In considerable pain and with some shortness of breath, she went about 'performing' for her photo session with enthusiasm, not really wanting to discuss her condition. Her sister told me that day, that Marcia wasn't totally aware of the severity of her condition and wanted to live the rest of her life normally.

She passed quietly at home on Friday, with her sister and her Mom at her side. Krystal, her sister, said, "It's like we all fell asleep together, and she was gone." She's already painfully missed by her family and a few close friends.

She had a dream come true that day at Oldham.... she got to be the model she always wanted to be... and she did an AMAZING job, being the STAR of the day!!

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"It was an out of body experience...."   |   Friday, January 4, 2013

Ginny R. was a healthy, active person, with absolutely no family history of serious illness....let alone cancer.

In February of 2012, after feeling fatigued all the time and 'just not feeling like myself'... she sought medical attention and was diagnosed with Stage 4, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. A PET scan revealing that her entire torso was filled with cancerous tumors and that she'd probably had it for over a year, before it was discovered. The tumors not only filled her torso, but surrounded her heart requiring hospitalization in the CCU.

At age 57, it was a staggering blow, "it was like an out of body experience. As they were telling me, I kept thinking they must be talking about someone else."

She's constantly surrounded by her 5 sisters, who are helping her with everything. "I didn't have to worry about anything, my sisters took care of everything." Married for 39 years, she's learned that she's 'tougher than I thought' and "I'm not ready to go... I have a lot more things I want to do with my life."

Ginny shares, that 'every day is precious. Some days are rough days, but tomorrow is always better."

In talking about her Oldham experience, she says....
"Being pampered at Douglas J and my photo session today was emotional and amazing. Thank you for making me feel special, I will always treasure this experience."

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"She was so proud of her pictures..."   |   Monday, December 10, 2012

We received some sad news this past week.... Pat May, one of our very recent Bold and Beautiful women, had lost her battle with lung cancer. Diagnosed just this past spring with Stage 4 lung cancer, she was determined to 'beat the odds' and fight the cancer. She said she'd been living on her own since age 13 and was 'tougher than the average' person and wasn't going to let this cancer kill her.

She sat in our studio and spoke very matter of factly about the disease, the severity and her family....which meant so much to her. Estranged from some of her children, it was apparent that her heart hurt about that and she wished more than anything that life had been different and had dealt her a different hand of cards. Two of her grandchildren accompanied her to the photo session and she spent a lot of the conversation telling me about how much they meant to her and how special her grandson was to her and her will to live and keep fighting....

Her daughter reported that her last days were peaceful and last moments comfortable. "She was so proud of her pictures and was so happy that she had done that. She showed them off all the time!"
Her last act of generosity was the donation of her body to MSU. I'm sure her feisty attitude will be missed!

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"This is happening to both of us...."   |   Monday, December 3, 2012

Janet P. and her husband 'both' have cancer.... she was actually diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in July of this year, but he husband is fighting this right along-side her, as if he has it as well.

Her first thoughts and concerns when she heard the diagnosis, weren't of herself, cancer, treatment or side-effects, but "I won't be able to start school." A first grade teacher, she LOVES her job and her students, and she immediately was concerned for them, not herself. She was able to attend the schoo's Open House to kick off the year, but was heartbroken that she wouldn't be there to teach this year. As she held one little girl and explained to the students about her illness and what would happen, the little girl spoke into Janet's heart, "It's OK Mrs. P., your hair will grow back." Obviously, a very successful teacher in her area, she's been receiving letters of support and encouragement from some of her previous students who are now in middle school.

Married couples share most things... but Janet and her husband are emotionally sharing her cancer. It's something you can sense between them and something that's brought them closer, emotionally, physically and spiritually. "This is happening to both of us.... we've been so blessed in our lives, and we'll get through this. It's just a matter of what we do next."

She has a huge support system within her family, church, co-workers and the small community she lives in and finds great comfort in this tightly knit group. "Laugh and smile alot! I'm looking for opportunities to share about this journey... God won't waste this time."

Her words of encouragement to other women... "Allow others to minister to you, accept help and allow God to have His way in your life."

Her husband says, "I appreciate her so much more and we don't take anything for granted."

The day before her surgery to remove the cancer, she went to her classroom, one last time and found this quote hanging near her calendar.

"The grace of God means something like: 'Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.'
There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too."

Exerpt from the devotional Beyond Words (day 127), by Frederick Buechner.

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Designing your own treatment room??   |   Monday, November 26, 2012

Heather L. is an architect.... who would have dreamed that when she designed the Cancer Center and treatment rooms at the University of Michigan Hospital, that she would eventually be a patient in one of those very rooms?

Diagonosed with triple negative breast cancer at age 47, Heather found the lump herself, but didn't think, or didn't want to think it serious. She had a European vacation planned and intended to investigate the lump as soon as she returned....

"I know so many women successfully going through treatment.... I'll just get the lumpectomy and move on with life. No big deal." But, she grows silent when she talks about the survival rate of women with her type of breast cancer... things aren't quite like she'd initially thought.

Now planning more surgery, she's only able to work about 1/4 time, which she seems to struggle with. Involved in a mostly women architectural firm in Ann Arbor, she gets a lot of support from co-workers and good friends. They even were involved in a 'head shaving' celebration, including wine and food!

"This has forced me to slow down... I'm always going at 1000 miles an hour."

"I've had to ask for help.... that's not me."

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Feeling a little guilty....   |   Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This thought was gut-wrenching for me... the thought of someone dying, so I could live. But, this very thought was part of Sandi's existence for several years as she waited for lungs to breathe and ultimately live.

Suffering long term illness after a brain tumor in college, Sandi's health continued to deteriorate over the years until at age 57 was told she would require a lung transplant to survive any longer. When presented with this desperate option, she says, "There are worse things than the prospect of facing death."Her life had become so limited, with the simple effort of breathing, that she was unable to even hold her newborn grandson until he was 18 months old.... the effort was simply too much.

After being hospitalized for quite some time and given the prospect of maybe a couple more days of life in her lungs, the thought finally crossed her mind and brought guilt with it...."is it wrong to hope for lungs, knowing that someone will have to die to get them?"

2 short days later....thanks to the generosity of a family of a 19 year old boy named Joshua, Sandi received the gift of life through new lungs.

"Faith gets you through it- faith in God, your family and doing the right thing... Giving up was never an option." She still is reminded of the ordeal she went through and the gift she was given...she wants to make the most of the gift she now enjoys. She's taken up a previous love of painting and has created some lovely images of joy!

Sandi was literally given the 'gift of life' because another human being's life ended. Consider the gift you could give if faced with the same tragedy. Please consider becoming an organ donor and giving the ultimate gift.

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"I want my mother...."   |   Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We all know how comforting mothers are when we are sick, injured or have a broken heart... Mom's just seem to make it all better.

The first thing that Pat thought about when she got her cancer diagnosis, was her mother and wishing she could be there to "make it go away." Even at age 69, Pat still needs her Mom, or someone to help her cope with the cancer and the diagnosis that will probably end her life, sooner than later. Diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in March of 2012, she now is fighting a battle to beat the cancer. A smoker for most of her life, she quit 6 years ago, but not soon enough.

Noticing an increasing shortness of breath, she went to the Dr. and was told the ugly news. "The first thing I thought about wasn't cancer, it was my mother. I wanted my mother.... everyone wants their mother."

She's a very 'matter of fact' type person, saying what she feels and meaning what she says. "I take life as it comes and learn to deal with it. I've not had an easy life and have lived on the streets since I was kicked out at 13."

Estranged from most of her children, her grandchildren have rallied around her, supporting her, transporting her and helping her with daily activities. "I'm the same ornery person I always was....just now with more emotion." 

She's a fighter. She's stubborn and she's accepting.... life has certainly dealt her some heavy blows, with childhood, with her children and now with cancer. She'll be here a while. SHE is the source of strength for this small family.

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