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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — These are the faces of cancer, the newest gallery on display at the Cherry Hill Public Library. The artist? A cancer patient herself, Lisa Semple.
“It gave her focus and purpose,” said her husband George Semple. “I think it’s a heck of a legacy to leave.”
In June 2017, Lisa was diagnosed with not one, but two types of breast cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery kept the cancer at bay.
“About a year later, she had regained almost all mobility, was back to running, actually ran a couple of races, and we really thought we were kind of in the clear,” George said.
But the cancer returned. Lisa couldn’t run anymore. But she could paint.
Her first was a self-portrait. “Her whole thing was to focus on the face, especially the eyes,” George said. “The eyes really can tell a lot about a person. You can see somebody’s sparkle. In my wife’s self-portrait, you can see there is a sadness there.”
Lisa was inspired to paint portraits of other people facing cancer.
“You’re diagnosed with cancer, you think, ‘cancer,'” George said. “Then you find out there’s so many variations. It’s not just cancer.”
Ten portraits grew to 20, including a childhood friend and a grandmother.
“Some of the striking parts are the eyes of all of the portraits. You can see reflections in them,” said visitor T.J. Lamanna of Voorhees.
“It was a bucket-list item for her to have a gallery showing,” George said. As Lisa was in hospice at the Samaritan Center in Voorhees, she and George arranged for the portraits to be displayed at the Cherry Hill Public Library. Lisa lost her battle on Dec. 23, just shy of the gallery opening.
Samaritan Center vice president of marketing and public affairs Joanne Rosen said, “I think she has inspired so many and will continue to inspire so many to do what they love.”
Visitor Gervaise Pierre of Cherry Hill marveled at the stories behind the portraits. “Some of them beat cancer. Some didn’t. But the fact that they fought very hard was very inspirational,” Gervaise said.
Laverne Mann, director of the Cherry Hill Public Library, said, “We have had people in tears, people with smiles, but mostly, ‘Thank you.’ Thank you for having it here. And we just say back, ‘We are the lucky ones.'”
This 3 Cheers is for Lisa Semple, who even as an angel has made something beautiful out of what we know to be ugly.
The Faces of Cancer exhibit runs through Jan. 31, 2019 at the art gallery of the Cherry Hill Public Library, 1100 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.