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By Zara Flores
Olivia Engelsman and Eden Feeley are hoping to cultivate an inspiring atmosphere for women living with cancer.
The goal, they say, is to capture their strength and humanity through their new pay-it-forward portrait business, Optimistic Expressions, in order to provide a newfound sense of self and confidence. In early 2019, Feeley was diagnosed with Stage IV triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). With a prognosis of a year left to live, the San Clemente local closed her creative agency, EnTheHouse, to receive full time treatment.
According to the American Cancer Association, triple-negative breast cancer grows and spreads faster than other types of breast cancer, with limited types of treatment. Despite the odds stacked against her, Feeley is now in radical remission after almost two years of treatment.
While grappling with her diagnosis, Feeley had a photo session with Engelsman, a Dana Point resident, which became the catalyst for their new pay-it-forward business.
Feeley’s experience as a marketing and art director, coupled with Engelsman’s experience as a hair and makeup artist and digital photographer, led them to venture into giving back to the cancer community.
“I think part of Optimistic Expressions is in the name; we are trying to bring an optimistic, loving feeling to these women that are living with cancer,” Feeley said.
Their photography session was so full of magic, Engelsman said, that they wanted to be able to share that feeling and create that kind of atmosphere for other women and their families. Thus, with every portrait session purchased, whether it be for a graduation or a wedding announcement, a session will be gifted to a woman living with cancer.
“When I look back on those pictures now, it really reminds me of how strong I am and what I went through,” Feeley said. “Capturing that moment is what I think we’re after.”
Engelsman added that, though everyone’s journey with cancer is unique, it’s a special moment that can be looked back upon during the fight to keep pushing or afterward to see how far they’ve come.
The two are hoping to fully launch their business in mid-March so that portraits can be done in time for Mother’s Day as gifts. For more information, visit their Instagram account @OptimisticExpressions.