“WHEN WE ARE OPEN AND GIVING OF OUR LIGHT, WE CREATE AN ENDLESS REFLECTION THAT OUTLIVES OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE.”
~ Gary Friedman
On New Year's Eve of 2010, instead of signing up for another resolution I decided to take a deeper look at myself. I was approaching 41 that following year and felt an urgent need to make a difference. I often got inspired by people who were able to create a ripple that inspired others to do something good, and I thought, why not? I can do the same. We are all capable of shining our own light to others and by doing so we are able to lift their spirits. I've always enjoyed watching a good make-over story on TV and I love the empowerment it gives women! Having been in the cosmetology industry for over ten years I decided this is one little way for me to leave this world a bit more beautiful. And so, once a month that year I offered to give a free makeover to a woman who could use a bit of a break from this tough world we live in so she can see the beauty she forgot she possesses. On the last Friday of January 2011 I met Claire Muollo. I know that I gave Claire joy even for one night as the following day while I was at work I felt a tap on my shoulder. There she was, her face beaming with happiness while she proudly whispered, "Look! I never washed my face last night!" Here are the photos I took from that evening:
It is quite obvious from the before and after shots that I was no photographer. After doing a few make-overs and looking at the before and after photos, I was woken up by an exciting idea. Photography! I needed to learn photography! So I can capture women's beauty in all its essence. And so Effie Legaspi Photography was born. My makeovers were the inspiration behind my photography. Which is why it is just so fitting that I chose Claire as the second feature for my personal project, What's Your Story.
“Sometimes that which we fear strengthens our spirit and gives us a splash of hope”. ~Harley King
Claire Muollo was born and raised in Braintree, Massachusetts with temporary stops in Weymouth, the North End, Cambridge & Florida before making her way back to Quincy. Just a few years beyond her adolescent years she began working multiple jobs; sitting back for the world to come to her wasn't an option. This approach has helped her in the years to come as she went on to become the bread winner of the family while raising two wonderful boys, Bob, who is now 29, and David, 21. She stopped at nothing to ensure that her boys were taken care of. This meant working day and night. In addition to being a mother, she is an aunt, a sister, widower and now a fighter. A fighter of that ugly disease that knows no bounds, doesn't play by the rules, nor does it discriminate...CANCER. This is a disease that I am sure if you have not been stricken by it you do know someone who has.
Claire, now 66, is a woman who appears to have a fragile frame, physically weakened by the presence of her cane, numbness and tingling sensation in her extremities. Take a peek inside her mind and heart, and you will find an overabundance of strength, armed by her spirituality, tenacity and endless sense of humour. Because of the support of her family and encouragement of friends, the word cancer has become less of a fear, but instead a weapon to fight for hope and a reason to rise above.
In 2010, a friend noticed a change in Claire's appearance. Just days after a visit with her friend and the hospital, Claire was diagnosed and treated for pancreatic cancer. She began chemotherapy and radiation treatments and later on underwent 11 hours of Whipple surgery at Beth Israel Hospital which was successful enough to remove the cancer from her pancreas. As Claire thought her battle with cancer was nearly over, during her November 2010 routine CAT scan she found out that the cancer had moved to her lung. While very angry with why she was being faced with yet another battle, Claire's faith in God has given her comfort during the darkest moments even when she questions why. She now looks at the bigger picture that we get what we need and not always what we want. She has become accepting of her situation but not enough to just sit back and do nothing. This second blow forced her to look adversity in the face as she screamed, "I am going to do something about this!!". According to her oldest son, Bob, this was a pivotal moment. Claire made a choice to fight and not sit around and succumb to it. Her decision to stand up, not once but now twice is remarkable as she continues to face the challenge and make positive strides and impress those around her, affected or not.
As Claire wondered why there wasn't much talk or awareness around pancreatic cancer, she took it upon herself to form a committee which would launch a campaign for pancreatic cancer awareness called Promises for Purple in the form of a 5k walk. The first Promises for Purple event took place on November 4th, 2011. The campaign gained much attention and sponsorship from The Gardner family of the Isabella Gardner Museum, Atty. James Sokolov & Assocs., Eaton & Vance Associates. Gifts were donated from the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Harpoon Brewery, Joe's American Bar and Grill, Dalton Water of Braintree and many other local businesses plus an appearance on the Quincy Access Television segment with host Joe Catalano to speak about the cause. The Committee's commitment to raising funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Clinic amounted to $26,000 for the inaugural walk. Following the success of the campaign, Dana Farber dubbed Claire the "Purple Lady" as they stepped in and constructed a website dedicated for Promises for Purple which was made available for the second walk in November 3, 2012 which raised $39,000. This year, as a purple hue brightly lit both the Zakim Bridge and the top of the Prudential Building in Boston, the third Annual Promises For Purple walk brought a total of $29,000 which was attributed to online registration, donation, gifts, etc..which sums up to a total of $94,000 raised in Promises for Purple's three young years. The relationships formed based on love, courage and a common goal to beat pancreatic cancer, is testament to one person fearlessly chasing hopes and dreams of creating something good out of what we see as bad. Since Claire's own diagnosis in 2010, she has known seven people who have lost their battle with this fight.
"Don't worry about tomorrow as it gets in the way of today", says Claire to Bob and David. Sure, Claire justifiably so has her moments, sheds her fair share of tears and wonders why, but her overall attitude is something we can learn from. The time I spent with these three was a good reminder for me to live in the present. This is not just another New Year's Eve for Claire. It's another New Year's Eve she's grateful for because she gets to spend it, now, with the people she cares about the most.
This is the moment to savor.
In love and hope,
CLAIRE 120813-169CLAIRE 120813-208
Claire and her son, Robert Jr.
Claire and her younger son, David.
Video from our photo shoot:
(Promises for Purple Committee: Robert Mullo Jr, David Muollo, Judy Christensen, Cynthia Toffoloni, Melissa Toffoloni, Jennifer Kahn, Mat Kahn, Desire Troy, Diane Burke, Lauren Burke, Steve Burke, Elise Burke, Janet O'Connell and Emily Duggan)
Claire, you are beautiful inside and out. I so agree that we are given what we need and not what we want to allow us the opportunity to learn the lessons that we are meant to learn in this lifetime. I salute you for your courage, your strength, your love of life and all its beauty.
Effie, I am so proud of you, dear sis, for taking on this wonderful project. Great job!
“God’s plan and His ways of working out His plans are frequently beyond our ability to fathom and understand. We must learn to trust when we don’t understand.” ~ Jerry Bridges.
Rose Leonce Greene(non-registered)
Claire, we have never met, but reading your story I have connected with you. I have lost my mom in 2012 to the silent killer. It seems like yesterday! You are a strong, determined individual that I hope one day Effie can arrange for us meet in person. You are a light that will continue to shine for all of those who have this disease and those who are care givers that are searching for encouragement. Keep up this light and determination!
Thank you for shedding the light on a ray of courage and hope which is Claire! I have had the wonderful opportunity to sing and be MC at the last two Promises for Purple events and it is a privilege to know Claire. She has also participated in my St. Patrick's Cure for Cancer concert, the third annual one will be this March 15, 2014 at Curtain Call Theatre. Mark your calendars and see Claire shine!
This is a story of hope, love and strength. It really touched me and I admire Claire for being a woman of courage to fight her disease. She's blessed that she has her two sons and other people who supports her with her struggle. May this be an inspiration to many. Effie I am proud of you because you are good in what you are doing. Keep up the good job.
This is wonderful! I know of Claire's story and she is an amazing woman. As you know, my dad is also fighting this horrible disease, so this really moved me. Great story Effie and beautiful photos as always!