Presented by Snapped
Two years ago, Erika Sudz received news that changed her life.
Her cancer diagnosis came less than three weeks after a dear friend had succumbed to the same disease. But, instead of falling into despair at the prospect of a life-altering illness and imminent double mastectomy, Sudz fought back. She was armed with a supportive family, all the reading she could get her hands on, a strong will and the overwhelming desire to live.
Plus, a camera.
“My love of photography forced me to get out of the house during my recovery,” she said. “Sitting around with idle thoughts when you've been told you have a life threatening disease is NOT the best idea at all: Every little ache and twitch is the cancer back and ready to take your life.
“I know for a fact that if I didn't have my camera I would've gone completely mad overanalyzing everything from every angle in regards to the diagnosis.”
Recovery took time, and Sudz spent it taking slow walks and photographing the colorful dragonflies she so loved.
And after her surgery, she used her camera to give back to her community.
Along with her husband, Sudz founded Dragonfly Wings Inc., a non-profit dedicated to healing other Alaskans faced with the same potentially deadly diagnosis. Besides a commitment to help patients with medical costs, the organization also works to provide free art therapy classes and features an art gallery in downtown Fairbanks committed to raising funds for the organization.
Sudz said the response from the Fairbanks artistic community has been overwhelming: Local photographers and other artists continue to donate their work to the gallery in support of the cause. And, as she prepares to fly to Texas in February for another round of surgeries, there’s one lesson she’ll take with her.
“Be strong and just keep living,” she said. “Art has a magical way of making everything better.”