red balloon alexandra wrote autism speaks cancer

I don’t believe there is a reason for everything. There are events, things that can’t be made sense of, that simply defy reason. I don’t believe in reasons for some things.

But signs. I believe in signs. Good ones. Like hummingbirds. And Friday the 13ths. And red balloons. I believe in red balloons. Like this one I saw float away from the Rose Bowl on Saturday, at the Autism Speaks 5K.

You could say that it was a red balloon that brought me to the blogosphere.

I’ve told the story more than once, but here’s the Reader’s Digest Condensed (ish) Version:

Summer 2010: I read online about a call for artists. An art auction to benefit the Gulf Spill cleanup. A blogger’s words to inspire an artists’s work. I was a magazine editor, a writer and photographer.

I email: are non-blogger artists welcome?

This is how I met BlogHer.

I’m sent a few sentences by someone I do not know. Powerful words. I style an inspiration board, a photo collage-style I do often, using the words of the unknown blogger, tacked alongside things I believe in: cookie fortunes, quotes typed on 3×5 cards, tutus, Kodachrome slides, ballet flats, sequins. A photo of a red balloon.

I tack things to the board, rearrange them once, twice, place the red balloon in a corner. The red balloon about life. About a life. About loss. About cancer.

Note to Self by alexandrawrote

Note to Self, by alexandrawrote (featuring words by Edenland)

I send the photo file off. I go to see the blog from which the words came. I see familiar words I don’t want anyone to recognize: B-Cell Follicular Aggressive Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

This was how I met my friend Eden.

The cancer Eden’s husband survived took the life of my beautiful cousin about 8 months prior. I’d carried that balloon in memory of her in the LLS Light the Night Walk. What had meant something only to me in that collage took on a whole new meaning. Our collaborative art project took on a new meaning (and wouldn’t be the last one).

I don’t believe cancer happens for a reason. But I believe in red balloons. I believe in their ability to defy gravity. I believe in their ability to fly.

Sunday, while editing photos from the walk, I saw the photo I had snapped of the red balloon leaving Los Angeles for some unknown destination.

Then had an email from Look Good Feel Better, and, well, you know…signs.

The Look Good Feel Better campaign has a simple, powerful, beautiful mission: to help women living with cancer feel beautiful. I love that. When they asked if I might post this video, I was all over it.

I love that while we fight to find treatment and cures for cancers like B-Cell Follicular Aggressive Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, we can also help women feel a bit more like themselves in the midst of treatments that often steal from them the familiar face they used to see. The ‘them’ they used to know. The energy they used to know. The ease with which they took some things for granted, like my cousins did in scooping up her babies in her arms.

My cousin was still the same talented, fabulous woman when her long, dark tresses were replaced with beautiful headscarves. She looked chic with her Jean Seburg hair. But these choices weren’t ones she made. They were made for her. By cancer.

From LA to NY, I didn’t get to spend as much time my cousin, her magically musical husband and their beautiful babies as much as I wanted to. We emailed a lot. We sent snail mail. The last thing I ever sent were a pair of ballet flats, a Liberty-esque print. I have a thing for ballet flats as anyone who knows me is well aware. Why send flowers when you can send shoes? Floral ones.

I remember a note that said something about stopping to smell the flowers, or tiptoeing through them or something light and silly because sometimes we needed to be light and silly. The shoes were pretty. Cancer is not. So, I sent a little bit of pretty.

She told me she loved them, though I don’t know how much she got to wear them. When I bought them I imagined seeing her wearing them in person the next year. But the next year didn’t come.

The following autumn at the Light the Night Walk I carried two balloons – one in her memory, the other in honor of Eden’s husband. I wish I’d worn floral shoes.

Please watch this video from the Look Good Feel Better campaign, and learn more about the cause by visiting them online, on Facebook and twitter.

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10 thoughts on “cancer, red balloons and beauty in the details

  1. edenland

    Tearing up, Alex. I love your heart, love how we met, love THAT we met.

    You are good people. I am sincerely so sorry about your cousin, and will never forget reading your email, filling me in on her and the significance of you doing this art piece. Not a coincidence, not at all.

    XXXXXXXX (One day I will track down that artwork! I bid for it on eBay, then it become number 3,4765 of things I need to chase up.)

    1. alexandra Post author

      I hate the reason we met, but I’m so glad we did (does that make sense?) I hope that in our lifetime they’ll be no more need for those LLS walks. Until then, let’s keep doing this art for good – it helps make the nonsense a bit less so. I’m emailing you about the art. We must track it down!

  2. Louisa

    Beautiful post Alex, had me feeling very teary too. Cancer is a beast… I tried to watch the video but I’m so sorry, I can’t yet…it’s still too raw. xx

    1. alexandra Post author

      Thanks, Louisa. Watch the video only when it feels OK. The campaign is a very special one, offering women in the States free goods and services to help them during treatment. When they sent me the video, I wanted to share.

      1. Louisa

        I will & I think it’s so wonderful you shared it. I think the reason I can’t watch it yet is because cancer did take the life, as well as those other things mentioned in the video, of people I loved deeply…I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there 🙂

  3. Deb @ Bright and Precious

    I am moved by your post, Alexandra. It’s written so beautifully. Cancer is something I wish I didn’t know, but I do. I’m 8 years post recovery from it. Complete remission and going strong. In the first few weeks after getting ouf ot hospital I was a recepient of the Look Good Feel Better campaign here in Australia. All that make-up and trying on wigs was awesome! I met some amazing people through it too. Great work. I’m so glad you’re talking about it. x

    1. alexandra Post author

      I am so happy to hear you are doing well, and to learn that LGFB is international. I had no idea! When I got the email with a link to their video I couldn’t wait to share. There are so many good people in this world finding ways to try and make a difference in the lives on others. If we can use social media to spread that information, I’m a happy blogger. Take care and thank you so much for reading!

  4. Pingback: On Red Balloons, Blogging and BlogHer VOTY | Alexandra Wrote

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