One of the bravest women I know is a 31-year-old single mom named Elissa Gaus.
Elissa's world shattered on May 7, 2010. It was the day her 4-year-old son Micah was diagnosed with a baseball-sized brain tumor. Since that time, Micah has endured five surgeries, 46 rounds of radiation to his brain and spine, and has had to relearn how to breathe, sit up, walk, eat and -- due to a tracheostomy -- speak. After two years of fighting hard to regain his abilities, Micah was re-diagnosed in May of 2012 with two more inoperable tumors in his brain and a spinal tumor. Micah has been receiving daily chemotherapy and bi-weekly infusion treatments at Duke Children's Hospital.
Watch Elissa get GLAM4GOOD here:
How is a young boy able to fight such a battle yet still thrive? Elissa gives all the credit to her son: "Our lives are by appointment -- PT, OT, chemo, MRIs. Through it all, Micah shows me how to live life to the fullest and be happy." I believe that, but knowing Elissa, I am sure that every hour of the day, she provides the spirit, joy, hope and reassurance that enables her son to thrive. Micah's courage and will to fight burn bright because of his very special mom.
I met Elissa because she was nominated to have a GLAM4GOOD day of pampering by Lori Lee, founder of the Me Fine Foundation. Lee lost her own son, Folden, to leukemia and created Me Fine Foundation to provide hope to critically ill children and their families through financial assistance, necessary resources and emotional support. Lee shared Elissa's story with me and I knew I wanted to treat Elissa to a special day of GLAM4GOOD when my team and I could nurture her.
How does a day of fashion and beauty pampering help a mom whose child is battling a life threatening disease? GLAM4GOOD and Me Fine Foundation believe the biggest benefit is a hands-on show of support and reinforcement both mentally and emotionally. "The moms are stressed and taxed beyond belief when helping their children, and they put everything and everyone before themselves," says Lee. "Letting the moms relax gives them a chance to recharge and get back into battle with their child." I agree, and I believe that a GLAM4GOOD experience creates a kind of shield that helps to empower the women we style. When women feel beautiful, it uplifts their confidence and energy.
So we flew Elissa to New York City for a weekend of pampering, culminating in a gathering of her family and friends to celebrate and recognize her for her dedication to Micah and her work helping other children with cancer. "This effort by GLAM4GOOD falls right in line with what Me Fine tries to do as an organization. By giving Elissa a little respite and time to recharge, we're giving Micah a rejuvenated ally in his fight against his illness. Anything we can do emotionally to strengthen families against their battle is what we're all about and is what Me Fine exists for," says Lee.
In our styling session, Elissa fell in love with a beautiful blue BCBGMAX AZRIA gown. Both Elissa and her son love "Duke Blue" because the color represents Duke Children's Hospital, where Micah is being so well cared for. Even though Elissa is providing for Micah, it has been important to her to volunteer at the Duke Children's Hospital Family Patient Advisory Council to help improve services for all families.
"As a young mom, I was not sure of what I wanted to be," says Elissa, "but my son has answered that for me ... I am a warrior. I fight for his needs, and for childhood cancer awareness. I have been the voice for Micah and all the kids to let people know of the lack of focus on our children in drug development, the lack of social service support, offered to all the adults undergoing treatments for this horrific disease, yet so lacking for children. I am the mother of a pediatric brain tumor patient ... and I will fight for him and all of them. My name is Elissa Gaus, and I am on a mission."
Yes you are, Elissa Gaus. Yes you are!
Watch and share the beautiful video (above) of our GLAM4GOOD day together. For more inspiring stories on the incredible women we GLAM4GOOD, follow us on our destination on Huff Post Style. For more information on Elissa Gaus and her son Micah, follow her here.