This past November I had the absolute honour of being involved in a wonderful fundraiser called ‘Brushes With Cancer‘. It was started by the inspirational Jenna Benn whom when diagnosed with cancer decided to put her own ‘twist’ on it by literally dancing through her treatments. Her infectious energy caught on and soon people from all over the world were showing their support by sending Jenna videos of themselves dancing to help ‘twist out cancer’.
From that, Jenna started Brushes With Cancer which is an evening that celebrates survivorship and hope through art, music and storytelling. To do this, survivors (or their caregivers) are paired with an artist who then interpret their story in their artistic medium.
I was paired with the phenomenally talented Kyle Burton of Double 11 photography.
We hit it off immediately.
We were so excited to work together and bring my story to life. We tried a few different idea/shots (one which included me being topless – GASP!) and ended up choosing this super cool projection photo as we felt it conveyed my story best.
As Kyle said in his bio:
When I was young my mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In 2003, with leukemia. The doctors told her she might not make it – but she did. Not only is she a survivor, but also a radiant beacon of strength and hope that inspires me every day.
Tammy is also a survivor. She was diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumour as a young girl. Today, Tammy is youthful, positive, and free.
Through photography, my passion and profession, I wanted to highlight Tammy’s strength and courage by literally shining her past on her. And so, in a darkened room, I projected an image of 7-year-old Tammy onto her scar.
To me, this piece is a reflection on strength through pain, a symbol of the fragility of disease and the empowerment of recovery.
As a life coach, Tammy is open and honest about her past, and she uses her story to help others who might be suffering.
It is said that pain can be our greatest teacher. And our past, a lesson for others. It is in the darkest nights that the brightest lights can be seen. And here is Tammy, as bright as ever, soaring, hoping, helping.
And here’s what I had to say about this experience:
Every scar has a story.
My story began as a 6-year-old diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumour. I hated my scar as a child. I was just starting school and, like any kid, I so desperately wanted to fit in and belong. But instead here I was a tall, gangly, bald headed girl who obviously did NOT fit in. I felt ashamed and thus my scar remained hidden from the outside world for most of my life.
Over the years my hate softened to acceptance and then eventually to gratitude as I realized the multitude of lessons it had taught me: the power of family, community, love, friendship, playtime, and laughter. But most importantly it has taught me about the power of sharing your story and owning your truth.
Because the truth is, my scar is badass and deserves to be shown off.
Scars mean you lived. Scars mean you survived. And scars can serve as a beacon of hope for others who are walking a similar path. Which is precisely why I decided to ‘unveil’ mine to you here, to show you that there’s no need to hide. Speak your truth, own your story, and love your scars.
This was a wonderful, yet deeply emotional, experience from beginning to end. From the immediate spark of connection with Kyle to flowing tears of gratefulness and love at the event itself, my hope is that by sharing my story it can inspire others to keep shining their lights as bright as possible.
Thank you to all that supported the cause, and me. I’d also like to thank Irmina Mikolajczyk for your badass retouching skills and big thanks to Dan Hadad for organizing this inaugural fundraiser.
And to Jenna for being such a trailblazer and beacon of light… much, much love.