There is a woman who taught me that no matter what life throws at you, there is always a reason to smile. Nadine Drown was a normal woman living a normal life as a single mom in a small apartment above her parents when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1999. Before she underwent her double mastectomy, she was given a very short life expectancy. None of us could have ever possibly imagined or predicted what the next 12 years of her life would bring.
Due to the fact that her lymph nodes were so compromised by the extremely aggressive cancer, she ended up struggling with lymphedema in both of her arms for the next 12 years. There was no cure for her, only ways to relieve her pain and discomfort through physical therapy and exercise. After struggling for so long, her doctors tried an experimental operation to reduce the fluids in her arms – which ultimately failed when the fluid returned within months after the operation. Then, in beginning of 2011, her cancer metastasized and ended up in her stomach, which is what ended up taking her from us.
Not only was Nadine extremely sick, but she was also treated very poorly from her family including her own daughter and brother. She was told that she was an “embarrassment to be seen with in public” due to her looks. Through all of her struggles with her health and her family, she still continued to do volunteer work and was also administrative assistant at the Emmaus House in Massachusetts, which is an organization that helps homeless families find housing and jobs. She felt that as long as she could get out of bed in the morning, she could accomplish anything – and she did it all with a smile. She was truly happy to be alive and up until the day she died she devoted herself to helping the homeless. Her love, smile and distinctive laugh were infectious, bringing a smile to anyone’s face she passed by.
This particular semester in college I took this class called “Intaglio” which is a printmaking technique that dates back to the 15th century where you use sharp tools or acid to carve onto a copper plate, which is then used like a giant stamp to transfer your image onto paper. I had just gotten my first big assignment for the class, and I had also just heard the news that Nadine was in hospice. She didn’t have much time left. On Thursday, February 17th 2011, I got a phone call from my mom, she was gone – and I never got to say goodbye… or… did I? The assignment for class we were given two weeks to complete. During those two weeks she had entered Hospice… and left… and I would sit with my headphones on, carving all my frustrations and sadness into this copper plate. I would carve so hard that my rubber gloves were no help, stabbing my fingers with the engraver and rubbing my plate with steel wool until my fingers were raw and bleeding. Once I was done, I sat back and just cried. This was my final goodbye to Nadine – her entire 12 year struggled memorialized in this Intaglio print that now hangs on a wall in my house.
This amazing woman taught me that no matter what life throws at you, there is always a reason to smile and keep on going. She taught me to never give up on your dreams and that there is always a reason to get out of bed in the morning. She never let anything or anyone stop her from accomplishing her dreams. I am convinced that her attitude and spirit kept her with us for an extra 12 years. She was truly an amazing and inspirational person in my life and I was privileged to have known her.