Finding a silver-lining when living with cancer
By Erin Kristoff
TateRachel Tate is very excited about a new change in her life. She is about to move into a new house that has a studio. Why is this so important? Because Rachel will have a new space to do her favorite activity with her sister, both of whom love the art of silversmithing. Rachel cuts, forges and solders silver. Living in South Carolina, Rachel lives close to silver mines and sometimes she and her sister mine their own stones.
This was not always Rachel's favorite past time. It took a little push by someone very special for Rachel to discover the joys of silversmithing. "GIST inspired me, really. My sister has been my guardian angel and taken care of me, and has been so wonderful. Right after I had surgery and found out four years ago that I had cancer, she gave me a trip to a folk art school for my birthday and I got to pick which class I wanted, so I picked silversmithing. She went with me and we both got hooked on it. It was really her trying to find something that would inspire me and get my mind off of [GIST]."
And inspire her she did. Rachel and her sister now have their own company named "Oops" (Named for the word they used many times a day when first starting their endeavor) and sell their jewelry and other silver pieces at private showings. They are different from many artists in that they polish their silver and bring it to a nice shine before completion. Most choose to leave their pieces in a dull form, but Rachel and her sister love to take on the difficult task of polishing and making the silver brilliant. "Our favorite instructor used to call us the Shiny Girls!"
This art has also aided Rachel in her battle with GIST. "I can turn out a beautiful piece of jewelry and it just takes me into another world. One piece in particular always brings a smile to her face. "It was a piece we entered into a national contest. It was a labor of love and it turned out so beautifully. It is an old fashioned garden party hat, when you look at it you just feel like you're at a garden party. Any time we can bring joy into our lives it lifts us up out of this cancer." Rachel thinks that everybody fighting GIST can feel this way. "Anybody that has [cancer] should find some kind of outlet to give them a sense of peace. It takes you out of the misery and the worry. Get a hobby!" When Rachel is not busy forging silver, she likes to read and spend time with her seven grandchildren. In fact, on a recent trip to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Rachel showed her oldest grandson (age 12) the sites of Boston. "I try to turn those trips into a fun time." Rachel's favorite place in Boston is the Museum of Fine Arts and the impressionist gallery, housing famous pieces by Van Gogh, in particular.
When she is home Rachel has her three sons, sister and brother-in-law to help support her and lift her spirits up, as well as her church. "My friends at church, they pray for me and I truly believe in the power of prayer."
Rachel has no complaints; her art, family and friends have made her life whole, she feels truly blessed and does not fear for her future. "My life is so full, it's just so wonderful. I would like to see my grandchildren mature and be a part of their lives for as long as possible. But I don't feel that cloud hanging over my head."