By now, hopefully, you’ve noticed our ‘Lady Ribbon‘. Well, here’s how she came into our lives…
Quite late one night some of the Sistas were posting on FB. We were trying to decide if there were any ribbons that truly spoke to us as Catholic women with regard for October as Respect Life month. We came to the conclusion rather quickly that none of the current ribbons really fit the bill.
I was riding in the car that night on my way home from Houston, TX. Although we (my husband & I) had enjoyed one day of our visit (Galveston Island — Moody Gardens), the majority was spent at MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant. Since then I have been struggling with my recovery. In other words, October is firmly in my mind for another reason: breast cancer.
Since I had nothing else to do, I began doodling on my iPhone. I submitted a few designs that were pretty horrible. Note to self: never try to draw something nice on an iPhone. I can be artistic at times, but mostly I have ideas that never get put on paper. I’m too much of a realist — both in accepting my artistic failures & in trying to draw like a photograph. However, this became a personal issue with me.
I became obsessed with designing something that could identify our group,but also speak directly to others with an uplifting message. I’m still not 100% sure that breast cancer awareness was ever intended to be so front & center with the design, but it was on my mind. I kept sketching — this time on paper. I finally submitted a design that I was very proud of. Then came some criticism… Let me tell you, when you’re this close to an issue and you personally identify with your art, even constructive criticism stings. I was very personally invested in my design. I apologize now for perhaps being irrational, but at the time I was hurt (& if I’m completely honest, some of the criticism still hurts).
I chose to use the ubiquitous pink ribbon because of my breast cancer journey. My journey has lasted over 2years, yielded an adorable (if somewhat fractious) little girl, and constant spiritual upheaval. I also feel called to ‘take back the pink’ from organizations, like Susan G Komen, that ignore the medical & moral implications of supporting birth control and abortion while professing to be searching for a cure for breast cancer. So replacing their pink ribbon with one of my own was a goal.
Again, because of my journey, I chose for the ribbon to be the pregnant belly & legs of the Lady. However, the pregnant belly was not just for my journey, but also for the Catholic teaching of ALWAYS being open to life. No, that doesn’t mean we all have to be pregnant all the time. However, it does call us to always accept that possibility. Since we are the Sistas I was not concerned with fully representing all Catholics. However, I did get my husband’s opinion and approval at various junctures in the design process.
As Catholics, we are also taught (hopefully) to be unabashedly and unequivocally Pro-Life. While the pregnant belly spoke of both my story and our openness to life, it didn’t necessarily scream Pro-Life for Respect Life month. The universal Pro-Life symbol seems to be the 8 week feet. So placing them in the middle of the belly not only clarified the pregnancy, but also qualified the Lady as Pro-Life.
Because we are the ‘Catholic Sistas’ it was imperative to include an obvious Catholic symbol. Initially, I started with a cross and the Lady’s folded hands. However, another Sistas idea of a ribbon composed of a Rosary piqued my interest of including a Rosary. After all, our Rosaries are immediately recognized as Catholic. So the Lady’s folded hands resting on her baby belly came to hold a Rosary.
At that point the Lady was ok, but she didn’t show our sense of humor. Although we are all joined by our Faith, there is much more to us than the staid, sometimes boring, religiosity. One of the Sistas has an absolutely fabulous collection of smokin’ hot shoes. We all, at one point or another, have commented with envy about these shoes. I erased my simple ribbon ‘feet’ and added some woman power heels instead. Now our lady was rockin’!
I also initially didn’t have hair on the Lady, but while bald was simple & reminiscent of my final pregnancy, it was not flattering or all-encompassing. So the lady got a generic hair-do. She also received facial features including a simple smile.
While the Lady was not met with unanimous approval, most recognized that she did show our Catholicity and the founding reason for Respect Life month. My sketch of the Lady was sent to a graphic designer friend of a Sista. He gave her the look she carries today. Although she lost the shoes and facial features, she gained a more elegant & streamlined look. The final touch was, instead of flat 8 week footprints, to use actual footprints. That crowning touch added volumes of meaning to the Lady.
So now, our Lady Ribbon now has a biography of sorts. To me, she represents me. I am staunchly Pro-Life & Catholic. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 20 weeks pregnant. Without constant prayer from others as well as a trust in God I would not be here to tell this story. Every aspect of the Lady Ribbon coincides with my life. However, she also portrays some of the basic tenants of Catholic womanhood: Pro-Life, prayer-filled, and open to life. She also can serve as a reminder that millions of women, Catholic or not, suffer from breast cancer (some even while pregnant) and need our support.
Erika V. is a thirty-something mother of two (with four saints in heaven). With a degree in molecular biology, she works for her state’s police crime lab; although her dream is to stay home with her children and homeschool them. Her newly converted husband is a sometime auto mechanic and primarily a stay-at-home dad. Passionate about pro-life issues and science, she is a survivor of breast cancer while pregnant. At 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter (pregnancy number six), she was diagnosed with BRCA1 stage II breast cancer. When local doctors we stumped with the diagnosis, she traveled to MDAnderson where chemotherapy on pregnant women has been done for over twenty years. After delivering her baby girl and undergoing more chemotherapy, Erika has had a whirlwind of surgeries to combat the cancer as well as the complications of cancer treatments. Three years and eight surgeries later, she continues to be passionate about pro-life endeavors, even winning the local Right to Life group’s Life Award and serving on their working board of directors. She authors two blogs, one a mommy blog Biology Brain-Simon Says and one a breast cancer while pregnant blog Erika’s Miracle Journey. Blog posts are often filled with pro-life references, including medical journal articles supporting the pro-life position. While there isn’t often time, she also enjoys horses, reading, gardening, and KY bourbon.