Lisa Powell said her battle against breast cancer was the hardest thing she's ever been through.
The Greenbrier Middle School science teacher was diagnosed in May 2005 and underwent radical surgery and chemotherapy.
Like more than 2,000 woman undergoing cancer treatment, Powell said, she received a purple-handled tote bag from The Lydia Project Inc., an Augusta-based, Christian nonprofit organization that provides tote bags of goodies to help women through cancer treatment.
Powell says the bag meant a lot to her on the road to recovery. Her survival will be featured in Portraits of Faith, Hope and Love, which is a tribute to cancer survivors. The portraits of nine women uplifted by the tote bags will illustrate the effect of The Lydia Project at the third annual Dessert Auction on Thursday at The Blue Horse @ D. Timm's in downtown Augusta.
"It is very rewarding," said Amy Breitmann, a cancer survivor and a director of development and co-founder of the Lydia Project.
"The dessert auction is an opportunity for us to show the community what has been accomplished," she said.
Breitmann said the group aims to deliver more than 2,000 totes to women undergoing treatment this year. Each bag, monogrammed with the word "Faith," "Hope" or "Love," contains a journal, pen, tissues, hard candy and a prayer card. They are distributed through area oncology offices and hospitals, by request and online at the group's Web site.
"Probably the most important thing is the prayer card in the front," Powell said. She received her tote from a friend just before she began chemotherapy treatment in summer 2005.
"You can return it and every Thursday, the ladies meet at the cottage (office) and the volunteers pray over the prayer cards," she said.
Powell said the tote was one of the many ways she was shown love and support through her journey. Friends, family and co-workers did so many little, but meaningful things for her during treatment, she said. Some made sure her son got to his tennis matches and others brought by dinner for the Martinez family.
"It is the little things, the things like (this tote) that people did," said Powell, who is cancer-free. "You see the hands and feet of Jesus everywhere through the little things. While this (tote) is a symbol of it, it is just amazing."
Like many other cancer survivors, Powell said her battle and the support she was shown led her to want to give back and help those following the same path.
"You form such a sisterhood with these people that go through the same journey," Powell said. "We're all hanging onto the same rope pulling each other along."
Powell and her husband, David, are in charge of missions at Lewis Memorial United Methodist Church on Columbia Road.
They took on The Lydia Project for a monthly workday to cut, sew and monogram tote bags.
After speaking at a few area churches, Powell said the group has become a nondenominational gathering of volunteers from her church and Harlem and Wesley United Methodist churches, The Sanctuary and Grace Baptist Church.
Breitmann said the group is one of The Lydia Project's largest area supporters.
"It is not so much that we received the bags," Powell said. "I think they had envisioned this would be a good thing for the people receiving (them). But I don't know if they had really thought through the blessing that people get out of making it, especially if it is somebody who has survived cancer or who has been through a traumatic situation."
For more information or to request a tote bag, contact The Lydia Project at (706) 736-5467 or visit www.thelydiaproject.org.
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