When Powers received house, family and friends introduced pot roasts, meatloaves, and casseroles. However the chemo had nauseated her, and he or she couldn’t eat them. The very first thing out of everybody’s mouths — “how do you are feeling?” — wearied her.
“Individuals actually wished to assist, however they have been uncomfortable speaking to me, or they didn’t know easy methods to assist,” she mentioned. “So I assumed to myself, how can I take this vitality and make it one thing we may each profit from?”
The reply got here to her as a joke: She was bald. She wanted hair.
“I’ll simply ask folks to make hair for me and it’ll be one thing goofy and humorous,” Powers mentioned. She fashions the wigs on Instagram. (Find her page at www.instagram.com/canyoumakehair.)
People have made hairpieces out of shoestrings and paint swatches. A musician buddy long-established one from guitar and banjo strings. Powers makes some herself.
“I discovered kale on the grocery store sooner or later and I assumed, effectively, that appears actually cool,” she mentioned. “I can match that underneath a hat and that’ll work. And it did. Then we cleaned it and we ate it.”
She taught Yonce easy methods to use a digital camera and art-directed each shoot. However chemo is no person’s greatest look.
“At first it’s surprising,” mentioned Powers, who’s 54. “The medicine make your pores and skin splotchy. I’ve no eyebrows. A few of them make your face swell. It was actually humbling to be in entrance of the digital camera.”
The therapy was tough. Along with the surgical procedure and chemo, Powers underwent a stem cell transplant and immunotherapy.
However she continued to glam up and clown round. She performed Donald Trump and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a boxer and a birthday cake. Most cancers had besieged her sense of self, and the intense, colourful sendup of vogue pictures helped.
“I absorbed all these different identities to be able to attempt to construct a brand new one,” she mentioned.
Extra wigs got here in. She spoke to artwork college students and medical college students in regards to the venture. She exhibited it on the Most cancers Middle at Massachusetts Basic Hospital, the place she was being handled, so different most cancers sufferers may see them.
“In the event that they have been going via chemotherapy, possibly they might see these and say, ‘you recognize what, I don’t know if I’m going to reside or die. However for this small second of time, I can giggle,’” Powers mentioned.
The venture helps most cancers sufferers. It additionally helps helpers.
“There’s one thing fantastic about being invited in to play, together with her wants in thoughts on the similar time,” mentioned Ara Parker, professor of expressive arts remedy at Lesley. Powers introduced “Can You Make Hair for Me” to certainly one of Parker’s lessons final yr. The go to blossomed right into a studio venture and digital exhibition.
The photographer’s buddy, artist Richard Zeid, made curlers out of letterpress prints.
“For the folks making wigs, it offers them a method to help the particular person going via it,” mentioned Zeid over the cellphone from his house in Chicago. “For Eileen, it gave her a inventive outlet, a method to cope with it, to just accept it and make one thing higher out of it.”
Acceptance has been essential for Powers, who’s uncomfortable with the notion of most cancers being a battle.
“I discovered shortly that I needed to settle for the circumstances if I used to be going to progress with no matter restricted life I had on the time,” Powers mentioned. “I believe acceptance is de facto the very first thing you must do.”
In February, 2020, she was declared cancer-free.
However her relationship with most cancers goes on. She calls the illness “a specter.” The venture continues, too. It’s the main target of her MFA thesis; she graduates from Lesley in June. As of late, she shoots moodier, black-and-white self-portraits.
“As soon as I turned most cancers free…right here I used to be left with the ruins of my life,” she mentioned. “I believe the photographs now mirror that insecurity.”
Powers has collected the images in a e-book and landed an agent. She desires to encourage folks to consider easy methods to collaborate with sick pals on a inventive venture.
“It gave us this bridge. We may speak in regards to the hair. We may discuss how foolish it regarded, what I would need to put on,” Powers mentioned. “And then we may discuss how I used to be feeling.”