Ellen's Story - The Courage to Stay Strong

Ellen's Story - The Courage to Stay Strong

Friendships often start when least expected, but for Ellen Erenberg, a professional artist and art instructor, the bond she formed with Erin Voss was unmistakeable.

Ellen and Erin first met several years ago, when Erin was in her late teens and taking one of Ellen’s art classes. Like many young adults, Erin was soon off to college and needed to step back from her lessons with Ellen. “I didn’t see her again until after she was ill and had surgery,” recalls Ellen. “But it was obvious when Erin came back, something had changed. She not only looked different, she was different – and I didn’t want to pretend or ignore what was going on.”

Ellen and Erin painted together weekly, regularly talking about Erin’s brain cancer diagnosis and how she was coping. Even when hand tremors made things difficult for Erin, she continued to come to Ellen’s studio and paint. “It took real courage for Erin to keep coming for five years to the studio, despite the cancer drastically affecting what she could and could not do. And it took even more courage to say ‘yes’ to sharing her story and reveal her journey to others,” Ellen explains.

As Erin’s health sadly continued to decline, Ellen sought solace in spending time with friends, one of whom had a young son named Liam. When eight-year-old Liam heard about Ellen feeling down, he got busy creating a painting to lift her spirits. That’s how The Courageous Lion came to be.

Ellen's Lion Painting Liam gave Ellen his painting of the lion one week before Erin passed away. Little did he know the heartfelt impact of his gift and how much it meant to Ellen. “The people who surround the patient also need courage to travel the brain cancer journey – and to recognize how to do this the patient’s way, not their way. It's such a difficult road but, at the same time, a privilege,” she adds.

Ellen carried the image of The Courageous Lion with her in the final week of Erin’s life, and says Liam’s unknowingly profound art helped get her through the grief of Erin’s passing. “It’s incredible, when you think about it. This eight-year-old boy was so kind and generous, and didn’t really understand the depth of what he was painting. For so long the image of a lion has meant courage, and here he was giving it right to me.”

Today Ellen shares The Courageous Lion and the story behind its meaning, far and wide. For her, it’s the chance to help others who may one day also face the grief and sadness that can come with the brain tumour journey. “The lion is a symbol of bravery and unlimited goodness in the midst of turmoil,” Ellen explains. "No doubt, there are many, many people frightened for various reasons who could use a little encouragement from Liam's Courageous Lion to help them dig deep and keep going in the face of tough circumstances."

We thank you for sharing your story Ellen, we hope The Courageous Lion helps others with their brain tumour journey.

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Story posted: January 2016

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