At 23, Brianne Urzada never thought she would start an emotional journey full of hardships and rewards. Her life changed when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a type of cancer that attacks the immune system and makes it hard to fight infection and disease. Her battle was demanding on her mind, body and career as an art teacher. Now in remission, Brianne talks about the importance of the care and support that helped her through her journey.
“It was something I had never experienced,” explains Brianne. “It felt like I was losing control of my health.” In spite of it all, she went into treatment knowing what she had to do.
It took eight months for her to get back to where she was, physically and mentally, before cancer. Brianne credits many people for that help along her journey. Family, friends and other survivors were critical for her recovery. The tremendous care and support she received from her doctor and social work team, she says was ‘amazing.’ “My doctor was fantastic. He answered my questions the way I wanted them answered,” she explains. “Having a clear understanding of what was going on made it a little less stressful.” Brianne says,
And, I can’t say enough about my social work team. They would always be checking in on me and asking how I was. They called me often throughout my entire treatment.Brianne decided to give back. She knew there had to be a way to do it through art. With support from Hospitals of Regina Foundation and photographer Kiriako Iadtridis*, she launched The Five Stages photographic art project. Capturing her experience through the five stages of grief, the project brought closure to her illness by helping raise awareness and funds for the Foundation.
Building on her vision to help others through art, she launched a painting business and within it there are painting classes offered to cancer survivors. “I knew I had to do what I love.” So, she combined her love of art with her compassion for others, to establish a creative, safe and supportive place for survivors to gather.
The business is a meaningful way for Brianne to return to regular life. “It’s important to get on with your life, but I will never forget those who made it all possible. From my doctors, nurses and social team all the way to the hospital staff and volunteers. Each person was there for me when I needed them the most. Paying back their generosity through awareness and fundraising is a perfect fit," says Brianne.
Finding more routine in her days now, Brianne reflects on how far she has come. Her first child, Winston, is now 18 months old. “I feel so blessed. When I look into his eyes I see everything that is good about my journey over the last three years,” she says. “Thanks to the generosity of people, who support our hospitals, I have found a new perspective on life and I couldn’t be happier.”
* To view the photo collaboration between Kiriako Iatridis Photography and Brianne, click here.