You Are Never Alone
A Q & A with aspiring artist and cancer survivor, Vanessa Hood
You Are Never Alone : A Q & A with aspiring artist and cancer survivor, Vanessa Hood
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Vanessa Hood knows better than anyone – dreams are only as strong as the support of those who believe in you.
After a three-year battle with cancer while in her 20s, she reflects on how she found the strength, support and inspiration in others – both loved ones and strangers – to conquer her illness and reignite her passion for opening her own jewelry shop/gallery.
Q. You’re a metalsmith. How did you become passionate about this art form?
“It was actually one of my high school art teachers that introduced me to metal. Once I took my first college level metals class I was hooked because of my college professor. She saw potential in me, introduced me to many of the techniques and pushed me to become the artist I could be. I fell in love with all things related to metal jewelry making. I loved that I could create forms that weren’t just functional – but truly beautiful. I discovered I could see my artistic vision a lot better with metalsmithing than I could in other mediums – something that inspires me still today.”
Q. When did you find out you had cancer? How did it change you?
“I was diagnosed with Philadelphia Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when I was 25 years old. I remember the doctor telling me I was going to beat my cancer, but that I was in for “a marathon not a sprint.” He was right. I went through four rounds of chemotherapy and fought for my life as friends and family rallied around me. I entered remission but still needed a bone marrow transplant to have the best odds in the future. While most people think that remission means cancer is out of your life, that’s not exactly true. Cancer has a way of haunting you, even after it has left your body. But while I know things will never be the same for me, I’ve learned the importance of making the most of each day, and celebrating life’s smallest victories.”
Q. Besides loved ones – where did you look to for support?
“While I was going through chemotherapy, my mom found an organization called Stupid Cancer. At this point I wasn’t open to sharing anything about what I was going through with strangers. It was hard enough for me to tell my loved ones and closest friends! But I explored the Stupid Cancer website and immediately connected with their mission of helping young adults with cancer. I met three other girls who had experienced the same cancer and transplant. We talked for the better part of two years, helping each other through some tough times and celebrating good news together.”
Q. Has your dream of opening a jewelry shop/gallery changed since your illness?
“The dream itself hasn’t changed, but the way I approach it has. Jewelry has always been my passion, but now I feel even more strongly about the need to make something beautiful out of all the ugly that has been my world for the past three years. I have come to realize how precious my time is, and the importance of setting things in motion now – even if it is just for an hour a day. And whether through profits or other means, I want to use my metalsmithing work to support the people at Stupid Cancer who supported me – and keep that community alive.”
Q. What advice do you for other people who are overcoming obstacles to pursue their dream?
“I want others to know they are never alone. Sometimes people will step up and support you, and sometimes you will need to seek them out – but they are there. Also, fight to keep the little things that make you happy in your life – for me it’s coloring and sketching. Even the smallest dedication to your passion each day will help you pursue your dream!”