Tutus for Truckee: Local auto shop, cancer survivor hope to make a difference
TRUCKEE, Calif. — It began with a photographer, Bob Carey, who wanted to do something to help his wife Linda who was undergoing chemotherapy.
His solution: He put on a pink tutu, and little else, and created images of himself in outrageous locations (much of it involving snow). The photos not only made his wife laugh, but were also a welcome relief to the rest of the patients in the chemo room.
The photos went viral and started a national movement, the TuTu Project, the mission of which “is to raise funds for women, men and their families to ease the financial burdens that come with breast cancer diagnoses.”
The project also raises money for the The Carey Foundation, the nonprofit Bob and Linda created in 2012 to collect for and allocate funds to the breast cancer community for everything from wigs and lymphedema sleeves to transportation, child care and counseling.
Now, two local women have brought the TuTu Project to Truckee: Cindy Lain, a breast cancer survivor, and Jodi DeRuise, manager of The Auto and Tire Doctor in Truckee.
“When you go through the process of chemo, it is surreal. You can’t believe it is happening to you,” said Lain, recalling her bout with cancer a decade ago. “It was scary, and you sit there for the entire day; it’s pretty grim.”
DeRuise, who works with Lain at The Auto Doctor, told her about the TuTu Project.
“I loved the love of it — the husband so badly wanting to do something for his wife,” Lain said. “Bringing joy into the chemo room was a cool way to bring his gift.”
Much of the challenge of fighting cancer is dealing with your mental state while your body is fighting the disease.
“It’s a choice every day that you keep living your life. It makes me sad when people close themselves off — it’s important to let the people love you and show you that they care,” said Lain. “I had people come to my house and clean my house top to bottom, cooking meals, washing my hair. I had a man come to my house to shave his head and then he wouldn’t let it grow back until I grew my hair back. People do amazing things, and that love helps you keep on living”
And what shows love better then a large auto mechanic who takes off his clothes, puts on a pink tutu and smiles for the camera?
DeRuise loves to take pictures of folks in their tutus for the project. She has taken many of Lain, but also anyone else who comes along and is willing to put on a tutu for the cause.
“It was really cool when you do something out of the ordinary, people want to know what you are doing. I carry around 30 tutus in my car. You never know when there will be an opportunity.” DeRuise said. “We have a lot of fun, but it also gets people talking.”
She hopes that part of the talking will include women remembering to take care of themselves and their bodies, including getting regular checkups to catch cancer early.
The Auto Doctor, spurred by Lain and DeRuise, is involved in several fundraisers to bring money to the TuTu Project.
“There is a lot of money out there for cancer research, but there is still so much that insurance doesn’t cover for the cancer patient. Sometimes the expenses are really high,” says Lain.
The TuTu Project awards grants to patients to cover those extra expenses, such as wigs, prosthetics and, for those who have to travel long distances for treatment, travel expenses.
For Lain, a cancer survivor for nine years, she wants to get the word out to those fighting cancer that they will get through this.
“When you go through it, it is important to go out the dark tunnel. You think, this might take me,” she said. “I want people to know, you will be OK. It may be a horrible road. Having cancer is life-changing, and it changed my life for the better.
“When I say life has changed for the better, I have this amazing sisterhood of survivors — we have this bond. I’m so thankful that we are here. I feel blessed that I went through it.”
As for DeRuise, she expresses her devotion to the cause by saying, “There is just something about giving back to others that is so rewarding.”
Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.