Cancer, Color & Community

April is Daffodil Month, A National Cancer Fundraising:

Last week I had to take my son Yoel to an appointment at the BC Children`s Hospital. As we walked through the hallway, we ran into my artwork that is on display in front of the Oncology Day Unit. The painting was donated in 2007 by many families in my community. Yoel and I remembered the day we came to deliver the large artwork. It was the end of the summer and Yoel was 5 years old. As we entered the Hospital, I remember looking at my son who was tanned and bare feet. His long curls were naturally highlighted by the sun and he looked cheerful and healthy. On that same day, we saw many families entering the Oncology day clinic for another day of treatments. We felt very sad for those families. This sad feeling ruined the excitement we had upon arriving to the Hospital to deliver the painting.

April marks The National Daffodil month. The Daffodil Month is a national fundraising campaign for the fight against cancer. People in Canada wear yellow daffodils to show that they are or were touched by the fight against cancer and to show their support to this important cause.

The Daffodil month, the fact that my son and I saw recently the painting and that my family was touched by this awful disease, brought up many emotions so I decide to write about a beautiful art project that came to life from my personal story and the power of a community. This project was called Color & Hope. A project that, despite my personal circumstances then, still makes me smile and symbolizes the power of belonging to a community.

In 2007, my family had to deal with 2 members fighting cancer at the same time, my dad and my eldest brother. My dad was diagnosed earlier, and while in treatment, my eldest brother used to come and assist him at the hospital unaware that in a few months he would be facing the same destiny. There were very hard times for all of us, especially because a few months before the diagnoses, I was living very close to my dad and brother but unfortunately I moved and I found myself living miles away. I was desperate to be closer and help them deal with the challenges. But I couldn`t be there for them because my children were very young. A very wise friend of mine suggested that I should organize an art fundraiser to help them financially and of course she knew that this campaign would also help me emotionally. She suggested that I should use my talents to contribute in the best possible way to the unfortunate circumstances. Vancouver Talmud Torah School, Jennifer Shecter, Yael Shamir-Elron and amazing families supported this art initiative. We called it Color & Hope. At that time, I was painting whimsical illustrations so I decided to make a sample and show my community the kind of work I had to offer. 10 families commissioned whimsical portraits for their children and the goal was to send all the funds to my dad and brother.

It was fun to receive a new commission every single day. Families told me about their children, pets, hobbies and their favourite colours. It was very easy for me to connect with my inner child and create whimsical portraits for other children from a place of love, playfulness and meaning.

Many more families wanted to be part of the campaign so we collected smaller donations and when we reached a final amount we decided that a larger painting would be donated to a public facility around BC. Yael Shamir-Elron looked for opportunities and BC Children`s accepted her proposal. At that time, a new wing at the Hospital was being added and the Hospital Foundation found the perfect spot for the painting. Because of the nature of the project, the artwork would be displayed in front of the Oncology day clinic.

Color & Hope was a fulfilling art project. From all the art initiatives I have done, this initiative has been the most meaningful to me. The project helped me realize that there was a community around me that supported, understood and embraced my personal circumstances as well as my art style. I felt loved and contained. The initiative also helped me feel closer to my family while being busy painting all the coming commissions. Doing what I love also helped me relieve the pain.

After Color & Hope concluded, commission kept coming in and I did many more commissions for children. It was fun, especially when I got to see photos of the children and their portraits in their rooms! I am currently focusing in a different type of style of painting but every time I see the whimsical side of my work I feel happy. Even though I am not at the Hospital to hear what people have to say about my work, I am sure that the painting makes others feel happy too.

As for my family, my dad is healthy and cancer free. In 2010, my brother passed away from complications due to a bone marrow transplant. I was his bone marrow donor. It is hard to write how devastated and frustrated I felt. I was sure that I could save and give my brother a better life.

All the love I felt for him was not enough. Life had other plans. It took me years to overcome the tragedy and sorrow of losing my brother to cancer. Art making was and still is a helpful tool to channel my feelings. I feel very lucky for having this powerful tool.

On the way out of our appointment, Yoel and I walked by the painting again. It was mid-day and the clinic looked busy with families and children, like it looked many years ago. I can`t imagine how many families have gone through the doors of that clinic and how hard it must have been for them. Yoel is 13 years old today. He reminds me a lot of my brother, who he loved dearly. I feel very blessed for having so many loving memories with my brother and for having a community that supported me when times were hard, thank you!

During Daffodil Month, you can make donations to help cancer patients and their families. There are also many events around the city. Please go out and support.

"The stories you believe to be true are the ones your life will become" with love, Jazmin

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