Introduction to the blog: At the beginning of 7 Dresses 4 Health I wrote a blog post introducing the Breast Cancer Superhero Project, “Day Eight”, namely focusing on the founder, Barbara Prowit. Since the original blog Barbara’s Superhero’s have been joining the blogging for 7D4H. Today we hear from Anne Drow on her experience becoming Ruby Runner.
Intro to Guest Blogger: Anne Drow, 46, wife, mother of two, grandmother of two, was born and raised in central Wisconsin. Anne currently works in a group home for the mentally and physically disabled and is co-founder and Executive Secretary for a local non-profit. Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40 in 2009. She underwent a double mastectomy, reconstruction and chemotherapy.
Title: RUBY RUNNER
Artist's notes by Barbara Prowit:
In 2008, my oldest friend from my growing up years in central Wisconsin came to visit and brought Anne along. She remembered me from high school! Sometime during that visit Anne remarked that she was struggling to get an appointment to get a lump in her breast checked.
Months later, Anne had her breasts removed within days of when Wonder Woman Katy had her double mastectomy. I heard about them as another friend's breast cancer took her to her final hours.
That was when I became determined to do something - an urge that ultimately led me to the superheroes project.
When I asked Anne to imagine her superpowers, I was delighted with Ruby Runner. So simple, so original and so apt.
At her photo shoot she nailed it - that direct gaze, the simple smile - "see?" "it's easy!" I also loved the inclusion of the pink wig she got the day she shaved her head - "...and then my sister took me to the mall, she bought me the wig and we had lunch. Everybody stared, but I didn't care!"
Anne's portrait was a challenge artistically; her body has taken a real hit, and she wanted a chance to be seen as she wants to feel inside. Ruby Runner, I hope I've done you justice!
Anne has always embraced work. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, she labored in the ginseng, pickle and potato fields. As an adult she's had office jobs. These days she's a baker.
She likes the feeling of not just working, but working hard.
Anne's breast cancer diagnosis did more than alter her body; her treatment changed her energy level. It was as if a button that regulates her stamina turned from high to low.
Chemotherapy knocked down her immune system as well. During treatment, she picked up the flu, an intestinal virus, pneumonia -- twice. Her hemoglobin plunged, requiring a blood transfusion.
Her old vitality has still not returned.
"I'm grateful for the treatment but I miss the old me," she said. "I'm so tired of being tired."
As soon as Anne was asked to claim superpowers, she had a vision of Ruby Runner.
"She's lean and strong and fast. She can walk and run forever. And she doesn't need naps," Anne said.
Anne is working to rebuild her strength. Someone suggested to Anne that maybe her reduced energy level is her 'new normal.'
"I don't accept that," she said. "I won't!"
When Barbara first asked me to be part of this project, it was almost like a dream come true. I was getting tired of being just someone who suffered because of the ravages of cancer. I wanted to be more than someone who survived.
I wanted the inner me to still shine through, and becoming the Ruby Runner gave me that opportunity. We have all changed in big ways and small. Some of the changes you can see, others you can feel. Some days I can move mountains, other days I could take on a newborn kitten and lose.
But, though the “new normal” is not my choice, I’m still here, I’m still fighting the good fight and still making people smile. So, it’s all good… No, I still can’t run and run and never get tired, but when the days are long and painful, I can look at her and know she is in there biding her time, waiting to come out and run!”
Artist’s Reflections Post-Portraiture:
Originally we had talked about having fireworks in the background --- as a random act of fate there were fireworks here in town the night after we did her photo shoot - it felt cosmically aligned for her --- another representation of the energy Anne feels inside but can't always live out physically --- but I haven't added that detail yet.
Ideally what I'd like to do is create a viewer interactive where people get to draw their OWN fireworks in on her background on Ruby Runner worksheets and then more people can be included in the creative process. (and there can be a bulletin board where they pin up LOTS of versions of Ruby Runner's fireworks!) Maybe we will do that when we bring Ruby Runner to central Wisconsin where Anne lives. :)
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About 7 Dresses 4 Health (7D4H): 7D4H is a year-long arts and health education campaign lead by visual artist, Marian Brown, in conjunction with Arts Connect International. The objective of the campaign is to promote inclusive community practices through adDRESSing health artistically and collaboratively. To learn more about the genesis of the project, read Marian’s New Year Blog.
About today's look: All of the dresses for 7 Dresses 4 Health were designed and sewn by Kim's Fashion Design. Love the look? Visit Kim at 100 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02116, call her at (617) 267-9299 or email her: email@example.com. Mention 7 Dresses 4 Health for a special discount!
Campaign Update (2017): All 7 Dresses 4 Health blogs were migrated from a former site, so the sharing analytics are inconsistent from when they were first published. We apologize to our guest bloggers, and readers, for this inconvenience. That said, the campaign garnered an average of 5K hits per blog, over 500,000 readers throughout 2015! Additionally, the average number of shares per guest blog was over 150x on social media (through Facebook and Twitter). Thank you for making this incredible campaign possible - and for all that it was for so many. With gratitude, Marian & the ACI Team