We all know someone who has been touched by cancer. It is a unique battle for each individual and one that is difficult to process. Brushes With Cancer is a program that provides a form of art therapy for patients and/or caregivers by pairing them with artists who transform their cancer story into a piece of art.

Having had family members gone through cancer, this is an especially meaningful way for me to use my skills to help support others. This is my second year participating in the program, and it has been an emotional and rewarding experience each time, getting to know my muse over several months, being there for her through treatment and being a confidential sounding board. This year, I am honored to be the conduit for my inspiration Melissa. "Always a Reason to Dance" is my interpretation of her courage, perseverance and hip-hop loving nature. Here is my Artist Statement behind her piece:

Always A Reason to Dance by Julie Pelaez

Melissa is one of those people who is brave without realizing it. As a girl, she "pushed the limits" despite major health issues. In adulthood, she faced additional hardships but found footing alongside her family. And now, at 39, she fights Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, an aggressive type of Breast Cancer against the backdrop of a global pandemic. Talk about brave.

The past 5 months, Melissa and I have connected through texts and phone calls. Despite not even knowing what she looks like, a vivid mental image appeared when she told me of her favorite pastime: dancing to hip-hop. Dancing while she was cleaning the house. Dancing with her family growing up. Dancing just for fun. Her casual admission embodied such a loud expression of life, celebration and playfulness. Since Melissa herself was too weak to dance because of treatment, I wanted to bring the dance party to her. Bold colors and lettering give off a hip-hop vibe while the feminine pinks are a nod to her breast cancer diagnosis. The multi-layered background symbolizes both the past challenges Melissa has overcome as well as how those experiences have shaped who she is today.

I know in the moment of grueling treatment, Melissa does not feel like the resilient warrior I see. But if her history is any indication, she'll prove to herself that she can get through the hardest of challenges life throws at her. Because there is always a reason to dance.

Brushes with Cancer Austin Event

This year's Brushes with Cancer online art auction begins Oct 11 and will culminate in an uplifting virtual event on Oct 25 - ALL are invited! If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, you may be interested in this night filled with hope, support and community. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased HERE. In addition, this year's art will be on display at The Fairmont Austin Oct 14 - Nov 6 by appointment only. Appointments can be made HERE.