News and Tribune

October 11, 2013

HEART-FILLED ART: Cancer patient’s sister creates painting inspired by family unity

By SHEA VAN HOY
shea.vanhoy@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Rebecca Goodman was working on a piece of art this summer in Union County, Ky., thinking it would be a great way to get new exposure in the Louisville market.

A professional artist and art teacher, Goodman was asked by her sister, News and Tribune Business Manger Janice Ashby, to create a work for an upcoming art show and auction to raise money for breast cancer research.

“I have done a lot of fundraising pieces and thought, ‘I’d be open to that,’” Goodman said. “I’ll be honest, the initial motivation was business-related — to get into the Louisville market and get some exposure there.”

Goodman was tasked with creating a piece of art which reflected how breast cancer had touched her life.

“I participate in Relay for Life [in my home county], so that was what had affected me,” she said. “Since I do horse paintings a lot, I decided to paint a horse with a pink palette. That was my involvement with breast cancer — it was as close as I could get to the subject.”

All that changed in August, when Ashby told her youngest sister she had been diagnosed with cancer.



MAKE IT HAPPEN

Ashby, 53, went in for her routine yearly mammogram Aug. 12 and found out nine days later she had stage II invasive ductal breast cancer.

“The initial reaction was shock and disbelief,” she said. “It’s the fear of the unknown and that something was beyond my control. What I did was immediately educate myself, and I found some power with that knowledge.”

Ashby said with that knowledge came a sense of purpose which settled her nerves. She knew what she had to do.

Taking care of business comes naturally to her sister, Goodman said. That helped Goodman deal with “that sinking feeling in my stomach” she got when Ashby told her of the diagnosis.

“She’s the oldest [of seven] sisters. She’s my big sister, and she’s always been a ‘make-it-happen’ kind of woman,” Goodman said. “This isn’t something that will defeat her. She will defeat it.”

With that attitude, Ashby forged ahead and had a mastectomy of her left breast Sept. 26. She’ll soon meet with her oncologist in Louisville to map out the rest of her treatment plan.

She said finding a medical team she trusted was key, and even changed medical groups when she wasn’t comfortable with her care early on.

“If you don’t trust the doctor up front, you’re going to be uneasy,” she said. “Pick someone you can talk to and are comfortable with.”

Goodman used more forceful words — ones she said were shared with her by a cancer survivor in her home county.

“If you do not like your doctors, your doctors do not like you,” Goodman said. “You need harmony through this battle. You need people fighting for you.”



FAMILY HISTORY, FAMILY SUPPORT

Before Ashby’s diagnosis, the sisters weren’t immune to cancer’s wrath. Ashby said she had two aunts who had breast cancer, and her sister, Cathy, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease eight years ago, and remains in remission after treatment.

“She was able to give me advice on what to expect. She’s been through chemotherapy [which Ashby expects to take],” Ashby said. “She told me, ‘this is going to be hell. It’s hard to do. But, she said looking back on it now, it’s almost like a blip on the radar. You get through it and the years pass and you’re thankful you went through it.”

Ashby added that the support of her children — Nick, 33; Katie, 24; and Jared, 21 — and that of her former husband has helped her through the shock and realization she has cancer.

“In addition to my children, I am truly grateful for the compassion, care and encouragement of my former husband, Rick,” Ashby said. “He has been one of my strongest sources of strength, support and understanding from the beginning. He’s been there with me for every appointment and test and through every procedure. I am so thankful for this during this difficult time for me and our children.”

Goodman noted that Ashby has always leaned on her faith, and her sister says this is the perfect time to do that.

“I trust in God and believe that he has a plan for me,” Ashby said.

Ashby said she tested negative for a genetic marker which shows a family disposition to breast cancer, which means she hasn’t passed that gene onto her daughter. She said her mother recently got tested as well and the family awaits the results.

“If she tests positive, then all my sisters need to be tested.”

Ashby also urges women to get mammograms when they are scheduled to do so.

“I’ve had my annual mammogram every year since I was 39 because of the family history [of breast cancer],” she said.



FINISHED PIECE

The sisters’ lives weren’t the only thing that changed when Ashby was diagnosed this summer. So did Goodman’s artwork for the benefit gala, set for Oct. 25 at Kye’s in Jeffersonville. Because breast cancer had instantly become more personal for Goodman, she changed her work to reflect what was going on in her family.

The large painting features a woman jockey with pink silks leading the pack while six other horses and jockeys trail close behind.

“It’s a determined race horse, going head-on,” Goodman said. “The horse reflects ‘Relay for Life’ and the ‘Race for the Cure.’ Janice is represented on that front horse and the six other sisters in the family on the back horses, supporting her.”

Goodman continued by explaining the family theme in the artwork goes even deeper. She said she was working on a project at the church the sisters grew up in when Ashby told her of her diagnosis. Goodman used leftover paint from a mural she was working on at the church to create the palette for the breast cancer piece.

“Janice is spiritually rooted, and I thought that will represent her spiritual background,” she said.

Goodman said the painting represents the struggle that all women who face breast cancer must overcome.

“They can be inspired to be strong and give it their all,” she said. “There’s not an option of thinking about a loss. We will win.”

Ashby said she was “amazed” when she saw the painting.

“It was not only how good it was, but I know Becky so well, and I could see how much work she put into it. It gave me an overwhelming sense that I have her and my family behind me. It’s probably one of the best pieces she’s ever done, and she did it for me.”