Local Spotlight: A Conversation With Biviana Franco

Conscious Life Journal: What is Feel Beautiful Today® and how did it get started?

Biviana Franco: Feel Beautiful Today is a not-for-profit organization born out of a desire to bring a little bit of home and encouragement to two close friends battling cancer, and to honor an aunt. As an artist I wanted to provide my friends, and patients, a positive program to bring them something beautiful. Feel Beautiful Today is dedicated to creating art-in-health—art programs delivered into the healthcare sector targeting cancer patients and survivors. We help reduce stress and anxiety and improve quality of life. We deliver to fifteen local hospitals, infusion centers, radiation centers, cancer support groups, and inpatient and outpatient areas.

CLJ: Could you tell us what the different program options are?

BF: The programs are designed and delivered based on what will best target the needs of the patients, and what will help most effectively.

Boxes of Love was started to engage the community. We wanted to allow the community to give monetary support and provide a way for them to give back. Anyone in the community can host an event and deliver our pieces, which then go to cancer centers and hospitals for those who cannot come to workshops because they are too weak or sick. We want patients to receive a little box of hope and encouragement. It is a reminder that someone cares.

With Arts in Health, whether the person is in an infusion chair or receiving chemotherapy, we deliver the program one-on-one. As the patient is receiving their treatment, they are into creating something. There is a transformation in these patients.

Treatment is really a hard place to be, and it is easy to fall into depression. What we do is give people control in a moment where they don’t have much. The patient can see positive results and something they created with their own hands. It really gives them a sense of accomplishment. That is huge in that moment.

CLJ: Can you give me a couple of examples of something a patient would create?

BF: We have a program called Through My Window. It combines different techniques, both passive and active. They can create with technical collage and alteration, and they can color and write based on their emotions. They can positively interact in a passive way, through music created by two local artists for Feel Beautiful Today. We also have a charming story of Luna (moon in Spanish). It was created to direct patients to find life gems and help them see beauty in every day. The story helps give patients energy and hope.

We also present workshops for jewelry making. Here, patients create jewelry with semi-precious stones and high-end finishes. We walk them through the process and they create unique pieces with a name, a message of encouragement, and a story.

The idea is to offer something positive, give them something to do with their hands, and redirect their thoughts. Participants tell us they are in a lot of pain and depressed. When they get creatively engaged, suddenly they are more alive. To fight cancer, you not only have to go through the biological treatments, but you have to have psychological well-being. You have to work on what is going to make you strong inside to be able to fight the battle. They tell me, “You know what, Bivi, I love that for forty minutes I was able to forget about this condition. I was able to feel normal and not just a cancer patient.”

CLJ: Conscious Life Journal is very happy to be involved, particularly with the fashion show. How did you come up with the idea?

BF: Every year, we do professional photoshoots with twenty of our patients. They become the faces of Feel Beautiful Today. The message we send is, You are much more than the body that is going through changes. You can help someone, you can inspire someone, you can join the fight, and you can be there for someone else going through the same thing you went through.

Sometimes when these people see their scars, they concentrate on that. I want them to learn to let that go and to focus on the new and different person they are. I encourage them to show the world they are warriors. Watching that change happen is the most wonderful part of the fashion show.

CLJ: What is your philosophy?

BF: I think that life is going to happen one way or the other. But the attitude you have towards whatever you are going through really makes a difference. I get inspired every day by patients and family members that have battled cancer. They teach me that it is about today, and it is about what you can do for someone else.

CLJ: How can one become a volunteer?

BF: Feel Beautiful Today has a team of eight to ten volunteers; we can always use more. Within that group, we have five volunteers trained and approved to go to hospitals and work directly with patients. Some volunteers work behind the scenes doing things like preparing supplies, sanitizing, or quality control. To be a volunteer, all a person needs is the desire. Each person can give as much time as they feel comfortable with. Going to our website is the best first step.

CLJ: What rewards you the most from what you do?

BF: What I love is what I see every time we deliver the program. I believe patients feel the love. I believe they feel the respect and admiration we have for them. They understand that we care and that every part of the process is designed to make it better and easier for them. During a patient’s transformation, that smile, many tears, lots of hugs, lots of “God-bless-yous and keep-doing-this” are so real, so sincere—they feed my soul.

CLJ: If there was one thing you’d want our readers to know or remember about Feel Beautiful Today, what would that be?

BF: We are a local organization helping local cancer patients. We are here in Georgia and we only deliver the programs here. When people donate, the funds stay local. That is key. Also, what we do is different, it is not just art. It is not just helping cancer patients. It is a combination. We know our programs are changing and improving the quality of life for patients in a powerful way.

Biviana Franco, President and Founder of Feel Beautiful Today®, partners with Atlanta-area cancer treatment centers focused on Integrative Oncology—treating body, mind, and spirit. Free workshops provide Healing with the Arts, an opportunity for stress relief, calm, and focus on creativity and beauty. Bivi is an industry expert on Arts in Health.