Tuesday, April 12, 2016

With a Steady Heart

Lindsay Shields isn't your everyday stylist. Sure, she's mega talented and can make your make-up and hair look like you belong on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. She directs the Academy of Make-up in Cockeysville and also is an artist at the Maryland office of Up Do's for I Do's. But she's a great deal more that her talent. She is so much heart.

Lindsey Shields, Make-up Artist and Stylist

For the past several years, in conjunction with Up Do's for I Do's, Lindsey has set up an amazing program with two area hospitals. Basically, she asks hair and make-up artists to volunteer their time, talent and supplies to go into cancer centers and give free make-overs to patients receiving treatment for breast cancer. Nathaniel & I go along, and offer a free portrait session if desired, or if a family is along, sometimes we do a family portrait.

This idea came to Lindsey two years ago when she was doing make-up for a bridesmaid who was 23 years-old and going through chemo for cancer. The young woman had
-- no brows, no hair, and no lashes. 

"I put fake lashes on, drew in brows. She looked in the mirror and started crying. She said she forgot what she looked like, " Lindsay said. "At that moment, I knew I wanted to do something to make these women feel beautiful again. I remember how my mom felt  going through treatments and how special it was to have her face on, or get her hair styled. Women lose sight of their beauty and I wanted to find a way to bring that back."

The Up Do's artists setting up at Mercy Cancer Canter
Lindsey's mom died from breast cancer after a seven-year fight for her health. The entirety of her mother's treatments included a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. After going into remission, the cancer returned and spread into her liver. She died between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2009. She was treated at Mercy, which is what led Lindsey to approach them and offer this service. 

"We were there (Mercy) a lot, so I love going there. Our experiences there are why we also offer services to the nurses too.  There was a nurse there who treated my mom and we thought of her as a friend," Lindsey explained.

Lindsey does make-up on a nurse at Mercy.
Each time the team heads into Mercy, or Holy Cross, Hospitals, they do between 12 and 17 make-overs.  Not all patients are up for the beauty treatment and they decline the service, but many women really enjoy it  - some see what's happening and request to be part of it.

For Lindsey, the process of setting up and working at these events is very personal. She often thinks of her mom. And in her mother's honor, Lindsey believes this is a good way to give back and offer something positive. 

"It feels great use what I do for a living, to really make people feel beautiful on a day that's not their wedding day –during a time when they need it the most," Lindsey said. "It’s also very emotional because when I go there, I think of what  my own family went through. I know Mom would have loved this kind of experience.  It makes it that much more rewarding."

Having portraits is part of the day for Lindsey as well. For a variety of reasons, it's not likely that the artists will run into the patients again. But giving them the option of a well-made professional picture is a gift to the women and their families, as well as a reminder of how beautiful and worthy they each are. When her mother was undergoing treatment, pictures were not taken. Lindsey reflected that she deeply wanted one more photo of her mom, and that was a gift she wanted each of the patients getting makeovers to have the option of receiving.  In some cases, it will be a marker of a period in the patient's life; in others, sadly, it may be a final portrait for their loved ones.

Beth and Serena from Up Do's, making a nurse's day a little brighter.

One of the most incredible comments Lindsey made during our interview was that she wishes people would go out and get involved in their own communities. Not just fundraising by running a 5K - not to downplay the importance of fundraising -  but actual hands-on involvement that can impact individual lives. She believes that really making a personal connection with someone can have a big impact - could change their day or change their fate. Someone could be inspired by your act of kindness to go forward and fight harder.

Up Do's and Lindsey don't go into these events to make money, gain clients or spread the word about their business. Each artists is fully committed and only shows up with the intention and hope that they can do some good, share some love, with a patient who needs it.

A nurse gets a beauty make-over.
"I absolutely plan to continue doing this. I feel like with the team involved, they want continue no matter what, too, " Lindsey said. " Everyone has been touched one way or another doing this. Our team has worked hard to be there and make it happen. And I couldn’t do it without everyone. "

Some of the Up Do's team outside the Oncology Center.

Today, April 12, 2016, Lindsey and the team went back to Mercy. Nathaniel was along to take pictures. And again, as in the trips before, all the artists were humbled by the grace, strength and beauty of the patients and nurses at the Mercy Cancer Center. No words I have can convey our amazement at Lindsey' heart to continue these events. No words can convey our gratitude for being involved. 

On a personal note, both Nathaniel and myself know what it means to have a parent with cancer. We understand the helplessness, the moments when you wish you knew what to do, the tangles of emotion when you think how damn unfair cancer is. We have been and are aware of the range of human experience cancer creates. Cancer leaves a trail of tears in its wake, for survivors, family, friends, even pets. 

Our involvement with these projects is a gift to us, too. While we cannot create any cures, at least, perhaps, our pictures can save a beautiful memory of a mother, daughter, sister, wife, partner, friend, aunt, cousin, colleague, teacher, or neighbor for others.