Pink Angels

Celebration-of-Life-08-sket

I am a member of Pink Phoenix Dragon Boat Team. This team is comprised of approximately 80 kickass breast cancer survivors. I adore these women! And even though I am not very athletic, the Pinks seem to like me too. Because I’m not very athletic, and I really don’t like to sweat, I struggled to figure out WHY I so loved this group. Here’s what I wrote shortly after I joined.

Spring 2008

Paddle buried deep in the water,
I am frozen in anticipation.
I wait.
I am a primal spirit awaiting the battle.
Energy flows through me,
tightening my muscles,
every nerve ending glowing like candles on a cake.

I feel whole.
I don’t notice my scars,
I ignore my tiredness.
In this moment…
cancer is irrelevant.

I am not alone.

I am surrounded by my sisters,whose strength and beauty amaze me.
Two by two we balance the boat,
Left and right,
port and starboard,
light and shadow.
Two halves making whole.

On the water, we become warriors,
A Tribe of women bonded through adversity.
Battle scars born proudly,
armored and ready.

We step onto the water to reclaim our bodies,
reclaim our power.

Together.

 

Now comes the hard part…losing my teammates. I didn’t realize when I joined that not all of them would survive. I was so busy having fun and working hard that I kind of forgot that cancer was still trolling among us. The women listed/shown below are teammates that I paddled with and knew personally during the past 7 years who are now Pink Angels. This list does not include all of the Pink Phoenix members who have died, nor did cancer take all of these women (though it did take most of them).

I will always remember you…Cedar, Lois, Jenan, Meg, Becky, Leslie, Sharleen, Kathy, Elva Rene, Janet and Linda.

becky3 practice cedar2 Meg - Victoria 2011 Lois and Cedar linda Leslie Kathy-Janet-Elva Rene Jenan janet Elva Rene and Kathy

Winter Paper Shrine

winter shrine

I found a triptych card template that can be used to make cards that double as shrines. Here is my offering for Winter. I used PhotoShop, a poem by Mary Oliver and some iridescent glitter, because everything looks better with glitter! The image that the card is sitting on is actually the image used on the back of the card.

The poem I used, Starlings in Winter, really summed up how I feel about winter. My favorite season!

Starlings in Winter
by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

 

Another Art Bra for the Bratiste’s Traveling Bra Show

After I spent a lot of time and money (I just love craft supplies!) on my first art bra, I thought I was done. I was happy with how my first effort turned out, and one art bra should be enough, right?

Wrong…apparently art bras are like chocolate chip cookies…you can’t stop at just one.

This second bra was inspired by a conversation I had at one of our Pink Phoenix parties. I was chatting with a couple of Pinks who have metastatic breast cancer. Their experience with recurrences led to a discussion of what kind of art bra might reflect their reality. I asked what kind of message they would want to share with the public, and one replied, “Please don’t kill me.” She was being a bit sarcastic, but I was really taken with the simplicity of the message. It’s what every cancer survivor wants…to not be killed by cancer.

So I created a bra of all words. The inside of the bra says “Please don’t kill me,” and “Please don’t kill my friends.” The outside is covered with words of hope…things I told myself to help me get through treatment and to combat the fear. I titled the bra, “When Words Are Not Enough.”

So when you hear a breast cancer speaking about gratitude, love, courage and how they have learned so much from their breast cancer experience (which is, in fact, all true)…just remember, on the inside, they are also saying “please don’t kill me.”

deandra_bra_second

deandra_bra_words

Art Bra Project Finished!

I had such a fun time working on this project! I had to work in stages since drying was involved. This gave me time to contemplate and anticipate the next stage. I even stripped it down at one point and redid it. This was a very scary time as I was working with a glue gun and it was not easily undone and then redone!

So, after the layers of handpainted paper, I added three images of hawks (two on the front and one on the back) shell beads, wooden beads, and feathers. I also created a an amulet to hang down the front. The hawk images were in honor of the three hawks I saw on my way to the doctor’s office to get diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeing hawks is pretty common in Portland, but usually I see the birds circling high up in the sky. These three hawks were at the top of three separate trees (kind of like a Christmas tree angel) along the highway.

Part of the Art Bra guidelines was to submit the bra with a written explanation/story to accompany the bra. I based my bra on a poem I tried to write the year I was in treatment. I spent all year trying to finish this poem, and all I got was phrases and starts, but no cohesive piece. The phrase that I was really attached to was “this is where I wear my female power.” Thanks to the bra project, I was able to finish the poem and submit it with the bra.

So, here is the finished product…

 


I Wear My Female Power

by Deandra Ellerbe

I once wore my female power,
for all to see,
for all to admire.

Twin moon hung suspended in spandex and cotton;
Their gravitational pull brought many into their orbit.
These globes, full and shining bright,
knew their power,
and loved it.

I then lost my female power,
for all to see,
for all to pity.

The moons destroyed,
ground down,
pulverized;
they were reduced to dust and memory.

A scarred landscape was all that was left.
Empty,
Barren.
And I hated it.

I created my female power,
for all to see,
for all to fear.

A  breastplate of deceptive beauty,
Cups molded by steely resolve,
tempered by the fires of war.

I joined my sisters of pain and sacrifice,
battle maidens,
scar clan.

I have their power.
And I love it.