Holly B: The I BELIEVE Project Winner’s Story

I must start this blog thanking the businesses who helped me give Holly B this wonderful experience:

  • Sass Salon & Day Spa in Mechanicsburg, PA, gifted a manicure and a sea salt therapy session.
  • Natalie McKee gifted hair styling.
  • Nath Mao gifted makeup application.
  • Nicole Smith of Premier Designs (Use access code NS83) provided jewelry to wear during the session and a $50 gift card to purchase jewelry afterward.

I also must thank my wonderful assistant and dear friend, Alisha the Assistant, who just brings a level of fun and happy energy to every session.

I sincerely believe these businesses made this a truly blessed day for Holly. 🙂 And to celebrate them, I must post a group photo (minus Sass). And in honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday, I took the liberty to add Santa hats on them.

The awesome team
Left to Right: Natalie, Nicole, Nath, and Alisha | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

So…on to Holly’s story.

Man. This women is amazing. She has such a radiance about herself—I think she’s just realizing how inspiring she is to those who are fortunate enough to cross paths with her—and I’m glad I got to be one of lucky ones.

Holly was diagnosed at 34 with breast cancer, which does NOT run in her family, and the only way she found out she had it—and this will give you chills—was during her yearly exam, her nurse was performing the standard breast exam and even though she didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary, this woman just had a feeling Holly needed to have further testing. The medical world tells us 34 is too young to have breast cancer, but something just didn’t sit well with this nurse, so on pure instinct she recommend Holly go get a mammogram.

This nurse saved Holly’s life.

Holly had no symptoms—nothing felt out of the ordinary to the touch, she wasn’t tired…nothing to indicate something bad was going on inside of her. All she had was a nurse’s intuition who insisted Holly be checked out.

Makes me tear up—that’s pretty powerful stuff, especially if you believe our angels find ways to speak to us through people.

The cancer was fairly advanced, so much so she had to have her left breast completely removed to keep the cancer from spreading to the rest of her body. The doctors took skin from her stomach to form a new breast for her, and while she’s been cancer free since 2006, she still bares the scars left by the surgery, and that, understandably, has made her not always feel so beautiful.

No woman wants to feel this way.

Which is why I created the I BELIEVE Project as a way to give back to the women in my community—so amazing women who have battled cancer or have been hurt serving our country can enjoy being spoiled and embrace that they are beautiful. I don’t think there could have been a better woman to kick off the I BELIEVE Project; I’m so happy Holly was the first woman to enjoy these efforts.

Holly started the morning of her session alongside her niece and dear friend, Allie, with a relaxing sea salt therapy session and a fun manicure. As they were getting the star treatment at Sass, Nath was busy trying out the 800-yard pink tulle skirt Alisha and I made for Holly to wear. The skirt was a surprise to Holly!

Tulle skirt
Nath Hard at Work Trying on the Tulle Skirt | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Good job, Nath! Thanks for testing the “twirl-able” factor.

Okay….back to being serious and setting up for Holly’s arrival.

Setting Things Up | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Upon Holly’s arrival, we started glamming her up with hair and makeup. Didn’t take much since she’s already purdy. 🙂

Getting hair and makeup done
Hair and Makeup Have Begun | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

And here are the results:

| I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography
Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Can you see how radiant this woman is?!


Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Holly and I discussed beforehand if she wanted to show her scars—she was ready to embrace them. What lovely results we got. Time has faded their appearance. Time has allowed Holly to heal.

Breast cancer survivor
Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Two of my favorites of her—the glow of the light just encircles her—and she looks so peaceful.

I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography
Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography
I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography
Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Can I stop you for a moment and just say: 🙂

Upon her arrival to her session, I told her, “If you’re feeling adventurous, we can go outside and get some shots.” And, really no surprise, she was feeling adventurous!

The quote below was from an inspirational saying she posted to her Facebook page.

I am fierce
Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

The scar on her stomach is a visual reminder of the battle she fought and won.

I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography
Holly B | I BELIEVE Project | Shannon Hemauer Photography

Amazing woman. Amazing experience for ME.

I wanted to end this blog with an excerpt from an email her boss, Patty, sent to me.  Just a bit more background on Holly—she is an RN at a family practice.

Holly became a support person for anyone in our office that she knew that had an abnormal mammogram or diagnosed with breast cancer.  She made herself available to these patients any time day or night if they had questions, concerns, worries etc.  I remember a patient in our office had an abnormal mammogram with a possible mass and the patient was very anxious and upset.  Holly took time to talk to her and helped to relieve her anxiety.  Holly accompanied her to her follow up mammogram as a support person (Holly used her own vacation time to go with this patient).  Another person, one of my employees (in another office) was diagnosed with breast cancer a year or two after Holly.  Holly would call her to ask how she was doing, and if she needed anything.  The staff member would tell me how helpful Holly was to her and how Holly would always tell her to call and talk anytime.  Holly made it a point to call this patient (like many others) every week to see how they were doing.  Holly would send them inspirational cards in the mail weekly in an effort to brighten their day and she did.  Holly had a box of scarves, wigs, etc. that she collected during her illness and she would lend this “special box” out to whoever may need it.

The next I BELIEVE Project session is planned for May 2015 and I know my team and I are looking forward to making a positive difference in the next winner’s life.

Until next time,


© Copyright 2014 Shannon Hemauer, All rights Reserved. Written For: Shannon Hemauer Photography

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