As a visual storyteller, I have always been drawn to the power of the still photograph. One image can convey so very much and if strong enough, bring one to stop and breathe it in. I chose to create another way of relating the powerful and gentle story of Marilyn Lemke who is receiving chemotherapy for her second bout with breast cancer. Marilyn allowed me to come into her home and listen as she shared her life story. A former teacher who decided to play her harp at the bedside of those in hospice. It was there that she met Nancy Ostroff, a hospice nurse. Nancy saw first hand how soothing the music was and she and Marilyn became quick friends. Nancy began taking lessons from Marilyn every Monday. At other times, Marilyn has travelled around the world with Jerry Lacey while sharing a relationship spanning decades. Both were such valued and strong supports when Marilyn learned her breast cancer returned. They now sit by her side at every chemo treatment, doctors’ appointments and recently surgery to remove a brain tumor. Marilyn has made a choice to approach each treatment in a very gentle way . She visualizes each drop as a cleansing while playing her harp throughout. I had the great honor of seeing how her music brought a peace and certain joy to the infusion room at Fox Chase Hospital. Rather than stay in each small section of the room, curtains were drawn and patients were all talking. Before Marilyn began, the only sounds were that of machines and quiet whispers. Her music drifted in and melted that sterile, secluded environment. Marilyn is still very much a teacher by her gentle example. I was given a glimpse of very strong bonds of love, courage rather than fear and peace rather than war. I am so very grateful.
I met Marilyn Lemke by chance…at the Lancome Counter where she had just received a make-over sponsored by Fox Chase Cancer Center (although she is so beautiful without the make-up!) Marilyn was so easy to talk with. She related that this was her second bout with breast cancer and previously she saw it as a battle, this time around Marilyn brings her harp to each treatment and puts herself in the mindset of receiving a gentle cleansing. Marilyn is such an inspiration to me in the way she meets this challenge with courage, dignity and grace. She radiates a sense of peace. We became fast friends and I just knew I had to tell the story of Marilyn, her harp and her very loving friends, Nancy and Jerry.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Too many of us know friends, mothers, wives, sisters and brothers with this disease. May a cure be in sight.
2012 copyright Frances Schwabenland