I don’t know Anna Millea. I never heard her name until today. But I know something about her—-since we have some things in common. We’re both artists. We’re both mothers. And we’re both part of that sorority no one wants to join, the sisterhood of breast cancer.
I know something about Anna. What I can’t know is what Anna is feeling right now. Because the nightmare all cancer patients fear most has come true: her cancer has recurred. Even worse: Anna has no health insurance since she was deemed “uninsurable” due to her pre-existing condition. So she has to personally pay for the 16 rounds of chemotherapy she needs to treat the cancer spreading through her bones.
Anna puts a name and a face on the story we’re hearing every day in the news—another example of the urgent need to solve our health crisis.
I’m not writing this to address the issue of health care reform. No matter what happens in Washington this week or this year, it won’t make a difference to Anna. She needs help right now. And fortunately, people have stepped forward to help her.
Anna’s handpainted leather pillows and furniture are featured on a website called Artful Home. CEO Lisa Bayne told me: “Anna creates a world of color and vibrant energy and warmth. And her personality exudes all those same things you see in her work. When I heard about what happened to Anna, I felt we must be able to do something to help.”
Lisa and Artful Home quickly put together an online fundraiser, called Hearts for Anna. More than 100 artists all over the country have donated their own work, which can all be previewed online on Flickr before the actual event. For 5 days beginning August 12 at exactly 10 a.m. Central Time, everything will go on sale for $100—first come, first served. On days 2-4 , everything will be priced at $75, and on day 5 for $50— all proceeds going to pay Anna’s medical bills. It’s a way to reach beyond Anna’s home base of St. Louis, to share the power of the internet.
For me, hearing Anna’s story today packs a poignant and powerful punch–which is why I immediately wanted to join the participating artists. My life, like Anna’s, combines the same mixture of art and breast cancer. Only I was lucky. Breast cancer didn’t take away my ability to create art—as it’s doing to Anna. Breast cancer GAVE me art, gave me a way to escape from cancer, gave me a way to find beauty in the world, to find peace within myself.
For me, art was a positive that came from cancer. Just like there are positives to Anna’s story. Hearts for Anna offers a chance to give— and to get something beautiful in return. Artful Home is planning to repeat this type of event, to help raise funds for others with cancer. Artists, who share their vision of the world, can also see that beauty is not only in the art, but in the heart.
I don’t know Anna. But I know she must be feeling that she isn’t alone.