When Susan Tancer was diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2004, it was both the beginning and the end of a long journey.
“I was misdiagnosed for two and a half years,” says Tancer. “I went to 30 doctors and nobody could figure out what was wrong.”
What started as slight tingling in the fingers of her left hand spread and took over her entire arm. Then, Tancer experienced two grand mal seizures. Finally, an MRI revealed a brain tumor.
“I was fearful, but I was also relieved,” said Tancer. “There was
something that I could address and take care of.”
“He looked at me and said, ‘Susan, I can do this,’” Tancer recalls. “He just said it with such conviction that I knew I was going to be fine.”
Tancer underwent surgery in July 2004 and returned home to Florida where she took oral chemotherapy for the next two years. She suffered some nausea from the treatment, and painting was the one thing seemed to take her mind off of it.
“We had just moved into a new home, and I started painting to fill the walls,” says Tancer. “The paintings themselves weren’t very good, but I had a drop cloth on the floor that was really interesting. One of my girlfriends used to make burlap beach bags so I gave her the drop cloth to turn into a bag.”
From there, things moved quickly. A local store offered to purchase the first bag and immediately asked Tancer for more. She decided to dedicate herself full time to creating the custom handbags, donating a portion of the profits to brain cancer research at MD Anderson.
“Painting the bags was really good therapy for me,” says Tancer. “I wouldn’t think about anything else, I would just paint, paint, paint and it took away the nausea. The sale of the bags also allows me to meet so many people who’ve been touched by MD Anderson. I’m proud to tell them that I’m a cancer patient and that I love MD Anderson.”
Tancer established Susan Tancer Studios and continues to donate 10% of proceeds from the handbags to brain cancer and spine cancer research at MD Anderson.