It Was Her Art Therapy for Cancer--It Became Her Career | ITC

Her Art Was Her Therapy During Cancer – It Became Her Career [Podcast Ep. 22]

Her Art Was Her Therapy During Cancer – It Became Her Career [Podcast Ep. 22]

After a shocking breast cancer diagnosis, a young Heidi Kelly turned to sewing to process things. Designing handbags became a sort of art therapy for cancer. What Heidi didn’t realize is that she had just made a career change. Her bartending days were ending, and she would soon find herself a successful handbag designer.
Heidi started learning the ins and outs of handbag design as a hobby several years back. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She was under the age of 40 and with no family history of breast cancer. To say the diagnosis was shocking would be an understatement. She decided that if life was going to throw her a curve ball, she might as well rise to the occasion. Between her second and third surgeries, she founded HKelly Designs and took her handbag hobby to a new level.

Heidi now designs handbags for a living. Learning the ins and outs of the business world and utilizing her creativity to create something gave her thoughts a productive outlet while recovering from treatment. Heidi’s sewing machine became her therapist, she says. With support from her family and a new business venture in her life, she retained her independence and creativity even when cancer tried to knock her down.

Heidi’s designs are as bold as her personality and she loves to create designs for the charities she works with, including METAvivor. In this interview, Heidi talks us through the journey of both her business and her cancer experience and how her artistic pursuits helped get her through the tough days.

Listen and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or click the play button below.

What We Talked About:

  • Heidi’s diagnosis and history and how she started out as a hobbyist handbag maker
  • Heidi’s big decision to turn her hobby into a business when she needed something to get her through her surgeries
  • Heidi’s regret over not having chemotherapy after a local recurrence
  • Heidi’s wish that she had known about the option of going flat
  • The benefits of unofficial art therapy for cancer and how finding something productive can help survivors feel normal
  • Finding her “tribe” among the greater breast cancer community
  • Heidi’s work with METAvivor, an organization supporting women with metastatic breast cancer, and her charity t-shirt designs




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