Nonprofit helps cancer patients see excellence in the world, themselves
Roswell artist Bivi Franco has given about 10 years to attempt to lift the spirits of cancer patients with handmade jewelry and other artistry.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m not someone who can cure cancer,” said Franco, founder, and director of the nonprofit Feel Beautiful Today. “But I felt I needed to be love-in-action and do something.”
“Franco and a group of 10 volunteers – numerous cancer survivors themselves – are regularly in infusion and radiation centers crosswise over metro Atlanta, giving love, support and a much-needed diversion to cancer patients.
To date, around 10,130 metro Atlantans have profited by nine programs Franco has made that are free to cancer patients and survivors and that play to her passion for art.
In one program, volunteers bring high-end supplies into hospitals and assist patients with making keepsake bracelets of precious stones, crystals, and new pearls while they’re waiting for or getting treatments. Every one of the programs — including those including mixed media and photography — are subsidized through donations and spotlight on inspiring the patients by helping them see the magnificence in art and themselves.
“What we do allows patients to have some beautiful time – some meaningful time – away from the concept of cancer,” Franco said. “At least for a little while, they forget about feeling sick or how anxious they are.”
Northside is one of 13 hospitals in metro Atlanta that has opened its doors to Franco’s program for quite a while.
“It’s a phenomenal program,” said Kymberly Duncan, survivorship coordinator at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute.
The bracelets that the patients make and keep “are usually a pick-me-up if a patient is having a bad day or they just started treatment,” she said. “It’s just kind of something extra to boost their spirits.”
Breast cancer survivor Mona Fletcher met Franco six years back when Franco was hosting a survivors’ workshop at Camp Hope.
“Bivi touches a lot of cancer survivors’ lives,” said Fletcher, who has taken an interest in Feel Beautiful Today programs, including the quarterly workshops held at Nordstrom at Perimeter Mall. “Her calming and caring demeanor is therapeutic.”
Lisa Walters, 47, of Canton, said she met nine brave cancer patients and survivors whom she currently calls companions at one of Franco’s arts and crafts workshops.
“Those who have not gone through cancer don’t understand what we’ve been through, though they try,” said Walters, whose 2017 breast cancer diagnosis required three surgeries, six rounds of chemo and 11 rounds of immunotherapy. “Life after cancer is quite an adjustment, a roller coaster ride, but having this group of women who do get what you’re feeling is amazing.”
Walters, Fletcher, and other cancer survivors have been a part of “The Warrior Within,” a story photograph show that Franco made that has been on display at local hospitals and has been made into a book.
The display is intended to “create an awareness that this patient is not only a cancer patient but a human being like you and me,” Franco said.
Some of “The Warrior Within” models likewise show up in a yearly fashion show that is the nonprofit’s, enormous fundraiser.
A professional artist and designer, Franco said she was inspired to make the nonprofit after an auntie and two dear companions were diagnosed with cancer. Just one of the companions endure. The mission became even more personal in 2015 when her mom was determined to have an uncommon form of cancer, Franco said.
She said she will likely remind cancer patients that regardless of how the disease ravages the body, the soul is perpetually beautiful.
“Cancer may affect the physical being. But the beauty within will continue to glow with hope,” Franco said.
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