I served my community as a Firefighter/Medic combined volunteer and professional for over 20 years until a heart-related injury in 2007 paved a different path for me both professional and emotional.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with Cancer. After extensive surgery, a difficult recovery process, side effects from medication and early menopause, I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin. I was a roller coaster of emotions. I had dedicated my life to protecting my community, protecting life and giving back any way I knew possible. I thought, what happens now? How can I move forward from this and be able to help others again?
In 2016, I was invited to participate in a portfolio for cancer survivors. I was humbled to be part of such an honor but hesitant about being in front of a camera. I had spent over half of my life in turnout gear and in the back of a rescue. I was completely out of my element but after much reassurance, and for the first time since surgery, I realized that I was part of something beautiful and amazing. I felt a sense of inner peace, strength, pride and self-confidence that I thought I’d never find again.
I reclaimed what I thought had been lost forever and after speaking with other survivors, I learned that I wasn’t alone. Many survivors experience similar emotional and psychological trauma moving forward from the recovery process. I wanted to create something unique. I started Dolls with Degrees, a Non-Profit Organization to help other survivors embrace and accept their beauty both inside and out by sharing “Our Curves4aCause” because no matter what challenges we face through this journey called life, we are perfect just the way we are!
Every experience I’ve had in my life, positive or negative has built me into the person I am today, and I wouldn’t trade any of that.
I grew up in a household of Domestic Violence and around this time was also struggling with being bullied at school. I was always told how ugly and overweight I was by my classmates.
Between watching my mom be emotionally victimized by men and my self-image being torn down by my classmates, my self-esteem was shattered. I ended up following the same path as my mother and encountered my own abusive relationships. I was struggling with anxiety and depression and just wanted to feel accepted by anyone all while trying so hard to accept myself.
At the age of 21, I attempted to take my own life. After receiving treatment and re-evaluating my life, I found Buddhism and it changed my entire outlook.
When I was approached for this project I couldn’t see why. In my mind I was going to be the “ugly, fat kid” but after seeing the first photo, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe that the person I was staring at was actually ME.
Being part of this project has done so much for me, but the most important thing is that it taught me to love and accept myself. It set me on a path of self-acceptance and healing, something I never thought I would ever find again.
My biggest accomplishment by far is the birth of my son who was born weighing only two and a half pounds. Being only 20 years old, it was a frightening time in my life not knowing what the future held for him, but I remained positive. During this challenging time, I realized I would become a strong woman and mom for my child.
Just six weeks after giving birth to my son, I was diagnosed with a significant heart problem: my Mitral Valve was severely leaking and as a result, I endured fifteen tough years with a severe leaky heart valve but pushed myself with exercise and a vegetarian diet. Then, in later years, I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and Fibromyalgia, but I do not let these adversities keep me from living and enjoying my life.
At age 36, I had open heart surgery to successfully repair my heart valve. Due to these hardships, all I knew was to push and never give up. I attended college and earned my degree in Real Estate.
Additionally, for seventeen years, I have been an active fundraiser and a volunteer fostering dogs, I have a soft spot in my heart for Beagles. I help them transition into their new adoptive homes which is extremely rewarding to me.
Being part of a survivor portfolio is not only a strong confidence booster but something that I enjoy passionately which in turn, makes me feel better about myself. There is always a way to find fulfillment in your dreams, no matter how seemingly debilitating your circumstances may be.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like Courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are NEVER weakness”
That quote is my mantra, it feeds my soul and ignites the light that the cold world we live in sometimes attempts to extinguish. It reminds me of the importance of feeling worthy of being comfortable in my own skin and of paving the way for other survivors to do the same…to walk next to them on their path, helping them to let their own lights burn a little brighter.
There have been many events in my life that have brought me to the place where I am today. Some were moments that I would re-live again and again if I could, like hearing my children belly-laugh for the first time or riding my horse in the ocean for the first time. Some are moments that were grippingly painful, that I did re-live repeatedly.
I survived a childhood laden with abuse at the hands of my birth mother, domestic violence and a violent sexual assault in college. These experiences left me brimming with shame and worthlessness that developed at the core of my being. My salvation and only time that I felt completely safe was in the barn. I felt a connection and sense of empathy and compassion for and from horses that is almost impossible to explain. I would go from being terrified of being beaten by a 150-pound human for looking at them the wrong way or saying the wrong thing, to feeling nothing but safety and acceptance from a 1500-pound horse. The horses saved my life in more ways than one.
Fast-forward through the years of therapy with two and four-legged therapists, I’m happy to say that I’m not just living my life as a passenger, I’m active at the reins and have dedicated my professional career to helping adults and children who’s lives have been affected by trauma and abuse.
I am so privileged to have been asked to be a part of this survivor sisterhood and to have my photos among the other brave women who have navigated through their own large and impacting issues. It is a great honor to share the light with them.
Sassy, Classy and a little “Bad Assy” is definitely a good way to describe my personality.
I have overcome many obstacles that have shaped me into the outspoken, strong and disciplined woman that I am today.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Depression and Bipolar Disorder. I was on a downward spiral of emotional darkness and despair. But despite the dark road, I have learned to overcome these adversities and have found peace and light in things that keep me going. I took my passion to the next level and overcame my body image fears by becoming a Cosmetologist.
Because of the personal battles and experiences I have dealt with, I wanted to make sure that my purpose in life was to help others learn to love and accept themselves and know that they matter... YOU MATTER!
I am on a mission to uplift and motivate others to step out of the box and be happy and judge free toward others because life is too precious to waste time not fulfilling your goals and dreams.
Follow my journey as I give back positive energy to the Universe.
God Bless and Peace to all!!
Martini is a fun-loving adventurer Cancer Warrior who has been known to pull Double Duty Agent by running a Half Marathon and 5k race in the same morning as well as two back-to-back Half Marathons in the same weekend.
Martini stared, NO, make that GLARED Cancer in the eyes and told it to FUCK OFF!!!
She’s been described as a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma.
Martini is a Reiki Three Master and loves the healing energy that the universe sends to her to send to the receiver.
Eight years ago, my heart was completely shattered when my husband and father of our son passed away suddenly. Life as I had known it was forever changed and I was beyond devastated. I don’t know how I survived through such a life-altering, traumatic event, I was tired of “hearing people say “you’re such a strong woman” because at that time, I did not feel that way but now I realize they were right.
I have overcome other personal obstacles throughout my life but my will is strong and “I will Survive.” I also dedicate my life to helping others. For almost 20 years, I have a rewarding job working with individuals that have Special Needs and although the hours are long and work is extremely challenging at times, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but given the opportunity to dress up and look like a beautiful doll is something I enjoy and I hope that you will too!