Front Range communities rally around cancer patient, orchids

If you go

What: “Orchid Stories” event

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Shupe‘s Homestead, 11931 N 61st St., Longmont

Cost: $50

When Rolinda Stotts, a well-known based oil painter from Erie, heard her friend, Stephanie Morgan of Federick, had been diagnosed with triple-negative and metastatic breast cancer in July 2017 she was devastated. Morgan, after all, had just given birth to a daughter.

“It broke my heart and I just didn‘t know what to do,” Stotts said. “I can‘t fix her, you know. I wished I could trade places with her, but I couldn‘t even do that.”

What came to mind was to purchase her an orchid. Not only do orchid blooms last up to six months, but the flower has also been a symbol of love and friendship for millennia. The Aztecs would even mix vanilla orchids with chocolate to create an elixir that they believed brought power and strength.

“I wanted to give her something that brings some comfort and hope and love when I couldn‘t be there during her chemotherapy treatments,” Stotts said.

When she stopped by the hospital to present Morgan with her gift, Stotts noticed that there were already two other orchids there, striking a chord within her artistic mind. Once she got home, she began prolifically painting portraits of orchids and even started to meditate on this shared experience with orchids. Then it hit her.

Curious to find out just how deep this ran, she posted a simple question on her social media profile asking if anyone had stories about orchids. To her surprise, she received an overwhelming response and was so moved she decided she had to find a way to share them with the world. The result is a new book called “Orchid Stories.”

“I‘m trying to create a legacy for Stephanie,” Stotts said. “She is fighting for her life, for her loved ones and her family, but mostly for her daughter Emma who is 3 years old.”

Harry Lozinski knows this instinct well. Just four years earlier Lozinski lost his wife, Roberta Lozinski, after a five-year battle with cancer. To help keep her memory alive he founded Roberta‘s Legacy in 2017. Based in Longmont, Roberta‘s Legacy helps cancer patients and their families with the financial and emotional difficulties endured as a result of the treatments, Since 2017 it has donated nearly $38,000 to 69 different families.

When Roberta Lozinski was struggling through her treatments Harry Lozinski would fill the bathroom with orchids so when she got sick, she would be reminded of all the love and support in her life.

It just so happens that right when Stotts begin compiling “Orchid Stories,” Morgan, who had recently been diagnosed with Lymphedema, a disease which causes one‘s limbs to painfully swell as a result of damaging the lymph nodes through cancer treatment, was introduced to Harry Lozinski. Not only did Roberta‘s Legacy help pay for Morgan‘s Lymphedema treatments, but it also purchased her a Lymphedema compression sleeve, which greatly helps reduce the pain.

Despite her difficult situation, Morgan said these gestures gave her a new perspective on life. In particular, she said, it taught her three important lessons.

The first, she said, is that people are genuinely good and want to help, even strangers. Secondly, no matter what the outcome of her illness, she must continue to be happy and enjoy the life she was given. Lastly, she said, pain isn‘t always a bad thing. It can make one a more compassionate and loving person.

For her, the orchid has become a physical manifestation of these realizations.

“The enduring and lasting orchid flower is like my constant companion, blooming with hope and love for another day of sunshine,” she wrote in Stotts‘ book.

“It‘s make me realize that we need to share our stories and love for one another,” she said.

When “Orchid Stories” was finally printed in March of 2019 Stotts‘ met up with Morgan and told her she wanted to throw a party in celebration and maybe raise some money for Morgan‘s family.

Instead, Morgan told Stotts they should give the money to Roberta‘s Legacy.

In support of both Morgan and Roberta‘s Legacy, Stotts will be hosting an event on Tuesday, at Shupe Homestead in Longmont.

Starting at 5:30 p.m. the gathering will allow attendees to paint and sketch alongside local artists, listen to live music and hear some of the inspiring stories from “Orchid Stories” and Roberta‘s Legacy.

The $50 ticket also includes an autographed copy of “Orchid Stories.” All proceeds will go to Roberta‘s Challenge.