by Rachel Hawkins
The Bio-Medical Library’s walls have recently been adorned with bright paintings of superheroes for the newest exhibit in the Art @ Bio-Med program, running now through October 2 (exhibit information).
But they are more than just flashy paintings. These are the stories of survivors.
This is the second post in this series of survivor stories, where we will introduce you to the superheroes and share each woman’s inspiring story.
The second superhero is Lisa Dahlseid: The Phoenix.
Lisa Dahlseid: The Phoenix
Mother, daughter, sister, writer, editor, transcriptionist
Diagnosed in 2007 at age 41
Prophylactic double mastectomy, reconstruction
The cells in Lisa’s breasts had a rendezvous with cancer, so she made an anguished choice.
Lisa’s mammograms revealed cellular irregularities and calcifications that are pre-cursors to cancer and she endured several painful surgical and needle biopsies to check for the disease. Although a tumor was never detected, her doctors wanted Lisa to have alternating digital mammogram and breast MRI procedures every three months to be ready to catch what they saw as the inevitable cancer that was coming for her.
“A cloud hung over me all the time. Cancer was not if, but when,” Lisa said. “I thought, why wait for the monster?”
After much reading and research, Lisa mad the decision to remove her breasts in order to remove the fear that was controlling her life. A prophylactic double mastectomy changed her destiny.
Lisa chose to be portrayed as the superhero known as The Phoenix, known for her strength, courage and invincibility.
“She represents rising from the ashes, rebirth, vanquishing of something that could have spelled death,” Lisa said.
The surgery and year-long reconstruction that followed created immense physical pain, but Lisa remains grateful for the choice. Although her body is changed, she is at peace with her new physical self, and proud that she seized her best chance for a healthy future.
“Because I saved my own life, I see myself as whole,” she said.
Drawing Out the Superhero Within
Lisa is a lovely soul, gracious to all. When I found out she had had breast cancer, my breath caught in my throat.
When she was first exploring the possibility of becoming a subject in this series, she took an online survey that determined that her superhero persona was the Phoenix. I think it’s a perfect metaphor for surviving and coming back to life.
Doing her photo shoot was wonderful, sharing that moment with her daughter Dani, seeing her mom powerful and victorious. “The hair!” (I had to wait for some time for the girls to finish prepping her!)
Choosing the final pose was challenging. There were several shots that captured a fantastic “Don’t even think you’re gonna get me” look on Lisa’s face, but I love that she chose the softer, “Phoenix rising” – gently, opening and accepting, life energy flowing. Still with the fire.
-Artist Barbara Porwit