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Meet Biviana Franco of Feel Beautiful Today in Roswell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Biviana Franco.

Biviana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I like to think that we all have a purpose in this world, and part of our job here is to discover it. I also believe that your purpose is often associated with the things you’re passionate about in life. That was really the beginning of Feel Beautiful Today.

My passion for the arts and design brought me to help others because I saw how difficult a cancer diagnosis was on family members and two of my close friends. The impact that this disease has on a person’s life, and how much that patient has to endure, is what moved me eight years ago to create this organization. I could design and create programs to bring to hospitals and cancer centers so that we could serve the patients directly while in treatment or transition to survivorship.

As an organization, we wanted to use the arts as a tool to connect and encourage. We have the intention of helping those who are battling by turning their minds to something creative and beautiful. These programs can potentially give them a sense of accomplishment and a positive distraction to their long and difficult days. We want to remind them of the person they still are despite the cancer diagnosis.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting something from nothing and trying to educate our community about our work was challenging in the beginning. It’s the importance of supporting the human being inside who is fighting cancer that helps us reach our goals. It’s been an incredible growth experience personally, and as an organization, and we take every obstacle that comes as a learning experience and an opportunity to create more awareness.

We need to support the patients with activities, and programs that can improve their quality of life. I like to think that obstacles are a way to help us look outside the box, and that is exactly what we do at FBT. Currently, our challenge is more about locating and using additional resources to acquire more supporters, so our programs can impact more cancer patients in Georgia and potentially other areas in the future.

Feel Beautiful Today – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
FBT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2010 to provide love, hope, and encouragement to cancer patients and survivors  The organization is fully staffed by volunteers, which allows for more than 90% of the donations received to go toward delivering art programs at 15 beneficiaries-in-kind hospitals and cancer centers.

Since the beginning, FBT has delivered its Arts in Health programs to more than 7,500 cancer patients and survivors in the metro Atlanta area. All our programs and workshops complement the cancer center and hospitals’ efforts to improve a patient’s overall Quality of Life (QoL). Each of our nine programs has been created with the intention to support, help, encourage, inspire and help the patients’ experiences by providing a shared moment, a reprieve from the constant worry and despair, an opportunity to value themselves and see themselves as beautiful, a reminder that someone cares and the use of creativity to enhance a sense of purpose and strengthen their will.

Cancer is no longer a death sentence and more patients than ever are treated and survive. Of course, life is not the same afterward and the meanings of things change. The importance of time and different priorities can make new beginnings difficult. FBT supports both patients currently in treatment as well as those survivors in transition. The group setting of our programs can help create a more supportive and positive environment. Art can be a significant part of a cancer patient’s recovery and healing process. FBT visits infusion and radiation centers to deliver Arts in Health programs free of charge to those who need it most. We always strive to remind the patients we meet that they are not alone.

We are always introducing new programs and ways to support cancer patients. We are excited as we try to bring this year our photographic narrative exhibit, “The Warrior Within,” to all the hospitals and treatment centers we serve.

The exhibit involves the patients directly, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the patients to feel beautiful. It produces lovely images, with the intention of sending a message and giving a voice to the patients. They’re able to share it with the community, as we all try to support and understand more about the human being inside each patient.

When it’s all put together as an exhibit, these photographs send a powerful message, and they help to inspire others with similar experiences. It also teaches us about the patient’s new perspective on life and their current situation. We’re beginning to look at other cities in Georgia that might benefit from our Arts in Health programs. We’re obviously looking to increase the support of local companies and community members who care deeply about cancer patients.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
We like to think that we are always observing the needs of this particular community, so we try to use our mission to design programs and help others by responding to those needs. We have been blessed with the opportunity to get to know and serve with love and respect thousands of cancer patients and survivors as we share and listen to them. We strongly believe that humanizing the experience for these patients and allowing them an avenue of expression is vital to their journey. Whatever outcome they may have, we understand that feeling like a normal person, feeling valued, and allowing them to get involved in positive and creative programs can have an uplifting effect on their days.

I can’t remember how many times, as a patient receives our programs at an infusion or radiation center, they are touched by the way we deliver each one. They always ask us why we do it. We do it because cancer isn’t a stranger to us and we do it because we try to bring a positive moment that might serve as encouragement to get through one more day. We believe in humanizing the cancer experience because any one of us can find ourselves fighting the same battle.

We love to witness the atmosphere FBT’s programs create in hospitals and treatment centers when patients choose to engage and participate. Our Arts in Health programs create opportunities for communication between patients and their medical teams, and that helps everyone relate to each other in a more personal way. We are honored to serve this community and always be able to provide our programs at no charge to cancer patients and survivors.

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