Thursday, 17 March 2016

Butterflies, babies and breast cancer

One of the great things about Facebook is that you are able to keep in touch with people who, in real life you might have lost touch with altogether.  Perhaps because you didn't know them that well to begin with, or you didn't have that much in common, you didn't live near each other etc.  Even though you probably wouldn't see them again in real life it's wonderful to be able to see their life journeys unfold with all the highs and lows that we all experience.

I have recently been particularly thankful for Facebook because it meant that I have been able to follow the story of Heidi Loughlin.

Heidi is a lady that I met a year or so ago at a church toddler group with her two young boys.  We chatted maybe a handful of times, she was witty, intelligent and we had things in common so we because friends on Facebook, as you do.  Not long after we met she moved away, so in any other circumstances we would have lost touch as we hadn't really known each other well enough to built a friendship.  But thanks so the virtual world we were able to stay in touch.

I would see the odd post that she put up now and again, pictures of her children, that sort of thing. Then things changed.

She shared possibly the worst news you could read about a friend, acquaintance, anyone.  She had cancer.

Heidi has an unusual and aggressive form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer, but what has made her story even more moving is that shortly before being diagnosed with cancer, she discovered she was pregnant.

To help keep her family and friends up to date with what was going on, Heidi started a blog.  But because Heidi has an absolutely wicked sense of humor, her blog became something bigger than she initially thought it would be.  She has been on her local radio station, in the newspaper and on TV, and is practically a local celebrity. She is doing much to raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer as well as helping to raise money for several charities.

Her story resonates with me particularly at this moment in time because I am currently entering my 28th week of pregnancy. The same number of weeks gestation that Heidi's baby, Ally was when she was delivered by C section into this world so that Heidi could continue with her cancer treatment.

Devastatingly Ally moved onto the next place sooner than anyone could have imagined.  I just cannot perceive the pain and heartache that Heidi and her family have been through and are still going through now.

It is because of this that I have felt compelled to help raise money for one of Heidi's chosen charities, and for Heidi to help her to achieve her "bucket and spade" list.

I have been inspired to paint a butterfly for Ally and Heidi because in the midst of her despair this amazingly strong woman found comfort in the image of a butterfly. She shared this quote on her blog:

"A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam....and for a brief moment it's glory and beauty belong to our world....but then it flies on again, and although we wish it could have stayed, we are so thankful to have seen it at all." Author unknown. 

Of course money doesn't take away pain, or cancer, but it can at least make life easier, and hopefully a little lighter and more joyful.

So it is for this reason that I am selling a limited number of prints of this butterfly painting, and will be giving 100% of profits to Heidi and her chosen charity Mummy's Star.

I will also be auctioning the original painting.

Not only has Heidi's story moved me emotionally, it has also moved me to examine my breasts more closely.  And I would like to take this opportunity to call out particularly to any pregnant or breastfeeding mamas out there who might have some unexplained changed to their breasts, to get your breasts checked out and not to leave without an acceptable answer. Our breasts go through many changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding but it's really important to know what is normal and what isn't. Inflammatory breast cancer quite often does not appear as a lump, but a spreading redness and cellulite type appearance. It could be mistaken for mastitis in a breastfeeding mother so it's even more important to be mindful of the symptoms. 

If you would like to purchase one of these prints please visit either my Etsy shop or my Facebook page.  I am selling them for £18.00 per print plus p and p.

The print is approximately 5 inches high and 7 inches wide.  It is professionally printed onto heavy weight paper using archival inks. Each print is numbered and signed.

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