Five years ago this past June, Jamie Buchanan heard a phrase that renewed her spirit and gave her lasting hope. She was told that after more than a year of radiation and chemotherapy to remove a malignant brain tumor, she was now 100% cancer free.
On Monday, June 25, Jamie posted on her Facebook page a picture of herself wearing a bikini and without hair from her cancer treatment. The post read: “Remission: 5 years ago on January 3rd, a mass was found in my brain and I was diagnosed with cancer. My life was, and will be, forever changed. Five years ago today marks my last day of cancer treatment. Today I am a cancer survivor: surviving & thriving, celebrating life. I AM A SURVIVOR.”
Nearly 70,000 people ‘liked’ her post, and it was shared 477 times by people from as far away as Nigeria and Australia.
“It was a real epiphany,” Jamie said. “It’s funny how Facebook is such a great way to connect to others that you would have never been able to connect to otherwise. My iPhone was beeping all day with friend notifications, it was insane.”
She said she got 650 friend requests from people around the world who were interested in following her cancer journey. “Not only was June 25th a day to celebrate my courage, bravery, and strength, it was a remarkable discovery of friendship,” she said. “I learned that even when one thinks no one is supporting him or her, there are always fans out there somewhere cheering you on through whatever experiences you stumble upon.”
Only 14 when she was first diagnosed, Jamie was able to conquer cancer and has even created a name for herself in the art world. She uses her art to raise money for the Susan Fund, which provides financial and emotional support for children undergoing cancer treatment.
“This is my way of giving back to the cancer community,” she said.
She first started selling her artwork to raise money for the I’m Too Young for This! Cancer Foundation, also known as i2y, because of how it supported her and helped her feel not alone while undergoing treatment.
Jamie credits her mother, Andrea Russo-Buchanan, for helping her beat cancer. “As a child diagnosed with cancer, my mom’s true colors sparkled through my cancer journey,” Jamie said. “She never left my bedside once. I could not have gotten through this without my mom’s support. I believe that her never-ending strength and spirit penetrated through me while I was sick.”
Jamie now attends Wheelock College in Boston, where she’s pursuing a career as a Child Life Specialist.
“Because I have dealt with what ill children are going through first hand, I would like to return the favor that I received and help reduce their suffering by giving knowledgeable support to ill children and their families, to improve the well-being for all those who are affected by these debilitations and illnesses,” Jamie wrote in an essay, which won the “It’s Always Something” award given by Gilda’s Club of Chicago, a meeting place for people with cancer to get support and named in honor of comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.
“My lifestyle has changed because, from the whole experience, I now want to work with ill children, and help them heal through art,” Jamie said. “I have always, since I was a little kid, wanted to work with kids — like maybe be a teacher or something…”
While cancer took away a sense of normalcy that teenage life often craves, Jamie said she’s met some “unbelievable people throughout the journey.”
“The friends I met during my illness actually know when I don’t feel well, because they’ve dealt with it all themselves,” she wrote in her essay. “We have a bond that will never be broken. I, personally, will never know the reason why I got brain cancer in the first place, but I can’t change the past, all I can do is keep moving forward… I won’t ever give up.”
On June 16, Cesco’s Restaurant in Darien hosted Jamie and friends to celebrate her fifth anniversary of being cancer free. “It was really special,” Jamie said of the event, adding that Cesco’s served hors d’ovres and drinks to all who participated in her cause.
Jamie said she hopes to continue selling her art to support organizations that help cancer patients and their families.
Her art can be viewed and purchased at redbubble.com/people/jayheart