I am a handbag designer from Portland, OR, and I turn 50 this year. I have been designing handbags and building my business, Designs by Jayne, for 3 years. My previous 15 year career was working as a registered dietitian and health educator setting up corporate employee health promotion programs.
I became a full time stay-at-home mom when my third child was born. In July 2000 our middle son, Max, was diagnosed with AML Leukemia. He was only seven but he will always be my biggest hero because of the way he faced his greatest challenge and ultimate death. Near the end, his Dad read him It’s Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong. By now, Max had gone through multiple life-threatening setbacks, and frankly he was tired. His Dad told him he could continue to fight or let the disease take its course. Max’s response was an emphatic “I’ll never give up.” In Feb 2001, Max lost his battle.
After a painful journey back to life, I wanted to reconnect with my creativity to help heal. I began in Max’s room with watercolors and eventually handbags. Designing handbags allows me to combine my love for color and texture with art while honoring Max. One of my handbags was featured on ABC’s Ugly Betty and I have been interviewed on Better.tv, Spryliving, in Portland Picks, the Oregonian and the West Linn Tidings. I’ve done art shows and sell in Oregon and Arizona boutiques. At times I’ve wondered if I should continue. One day I was determined to quit but that night, Max came to me in a dream saying, “Mommy, don’t give up. Keep on going.” I believe the veil between this life and the next is very thin and that Max is always here rooting for the business and our cause. Today, we’re in the process of expanding nationally.
The most important element to my company is our non-profit, Max’s Blue Butterfly, www.maxsbluebutterfly.org, whose mission is to raise research funds to fight childhood leukemia and to raise awareness that leukemia is the #1 disease killer of children. We give a percentage of handbag profits to Max’s Blue Butterfly and coordinate other fundraising events.
This is a story of hope, courage, inspiration and transformation. In the face of the most tragic of events, one can rebuild their life in ways they never expected.
To see my handbags: www.designsbyjayne.com.