When a woman receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, which is something nearly one in eight women in America will experience, she often feels frightened and isolated. Friends and family may not know what to say as she embarks on this long, and often lonely, journey.
But, what if that same woman could be uplifted and inspired every month by other vibrant, beautiful women who have managed to thrive, even expand their horizons, despite a breast cancer diagnosis? That’s the idea behind the Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar, a creative collaboration between professional photographer Kathie Austin and Tom Mattingly of Matting Leah Publishing Co., both based in Warwick.
“Our goals are to create awareness of breast cancer, foster prevention, and inspire hope for people who are fresh to or fresh from the battle with breast cancer,” explains Austin. She created 12 extraordinary visual portraits of Hudson Valley-area breast cancer survivors, while Mattingly (using the pseudonym Matthew S. Field) penned the stirring biographies.
Having lost his wife to breast cancer in 2005, just 10 months after her diagnosis, Mattingly has a strong personal interest in getting the word out on prevention. Most cases occur in women with no traceable family history, making self-care extremely important. “We want women to do breast self-exams and get mammograms,” says Mattingly. “We want to foster prevention through healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol.”
Working through word-of-mouth, Austin and Mattingly looked for extraordinary women who created a positive legacy for their families, friends, and communities despite their breast cancer diagnosis. Carol Chatellier Kleinrock wrote It Is What It Is: Beating Breast Cancer Using Chemo, Radiation and Email (Infinity Publishing, $13.95) after being successfully treated for Stage II breast cancer. Though she had never before written a book, Carol relied on her candor and sense of humor to describe what happens during treatment and how to build a support network to get through it.
Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar can be purchased for $19.95 at Ye Olde Book Shoppe in Warwick and online at www.seasonsofhopecalendar.com or www.amazon.com. Mattingly says that one-third of the profits will go to a local charity that helps families after a cancer diagnosis.
What did the two creative collaborators learn while working on the project? “No matter how difficult things become, you can make something good out of your circumstances,” says Mattingly. “Things may seem and may be almost hopeless, but from there, some really beautiful things can still happen.”
Shortly after having a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, Meghan Haarmann’s Rottweiler suffered an accident that required the amputation of its right front leg. That made them both survivors.
From the Seasons of Hope Calendar: On Meghan’s forearm, she proudly exhibits body art of a koi. “Sometimes, it seems like you’re swimming against the current. In Eastern cultures, when a koi reaches the top of a waterfall, it becomes a dragon, representing new life and rebirth.” It’s not coincidental that one of Meghan’s refrains is prominently displayed in the form of body art: ‘We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for the journey.’ ”
A native of Ukraine, Klaudia fled to the United States in 1969 for freedom and opportunity. She overcame breast cancer in 1981, uterine cancer in 2007, and another round of breast cancer in 2008. Each time, she not only survived, but thrived.
From the Seasons of Hope Calendar: Today Klaudia lives with her husband of 55 years on a utopian, five-acre sanctuary that features reflecting ponds, breathtaking gardens, and her nature-inspired art. Perhaps no one understands better than Klaudia, a 34-year survivor of breast cancer and more, that freedom isn’t free.