My name is Yali Derman, and I am a young adult cancer survivor who was treated at Children’s Memorial Hospital for recurrent disease since the age of 4. Fortunately, because of the miracles of modern medicine and a sibling bone marrow transplant, I am now a healthy senior at the University of Pennsylvania.
Sometimes the hardest story to tell is my own and that is where the power of the purse comes in for me. During my frequent extended stays in the hospital, I found great strength and comfort in the programs offered by the Family Services Department and in particular, KIDSS for Kids. In my situation creative art therapy was vital in helping me cope with the long and difficult treatments that ultimately saved my life.
At 16, I was granted the opportunity to design a purse with Kate Spade; at 18, I developed my own trademark-Yali’s Carry On- to signify how cancer survivors carry on in the face of their medical baggage. The Kate Spade project earned me and Kate Spade the title of donors of the year (Oct 2008) to the Make A Wish Foundation.In the spring of 2009 (my senior year of high school), I debuted a screen printed “Yali Carry On” graphic on a simple pink canvas beach bag to benefit the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago foundation called KIDSS for Kids. This organization, which I am in an alliance with, supports child and family services, such as the arts program I took advantage of when in isolation during my lengthy illness and bone marrow transplant. KIDSS for KIDS is funding the new playroom in the newly opened Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago . All the proceeds of the Yali beach bag went to this and so far the beach bag has raised over $10,000 for KIDSS.
Creative endeavors were a segue to express my autobiographical voice and handbag designing supplied a powerful vocabulary for me to narrate what I would like to say about myself. The handbag I designed alongside Kate Spade and Co. was my first opportunity to encompass all the elements that compose my life within a handbag.
In the interpretive task of creating a tote bag, whether I am designing it for my own collection or conducting a tote making workshop for healthy children, seriously ill children, or adults, I always bring into the project my zest for life, my love of symbolism, my creative graphics and the story of my struggle with cancer as inspirational devices. As an art educator, my tote making workshops help participants explore their own ways of “Carrying On.”
I am now a registered nurse, having recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. My impetus to pursue such a career path is derived directly from my exposure to the special and gifted nursing team who advocated for me throughout my incredible 15 year journey at Children’s Memorial Hospital [now the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago]; a team, that reached out in crisis, and whose presence also illuminates each of my victories. My goal is to become an advanced practice nurse in pediatric oncology and also facilitate complementary medicine programs, such as art therapy for seriously ill children. During the course of this past year, I designed another intricate graphic to adorn a higher-end “Carry On Carry All” to benefit KIDSS for KIDS. The graphic has significance in its representation of the cancer experience.
Currently, the newest Yali’s Carry On ® design incorporates 18 colors and is silk screened on a black microfiber, gray microfiber, or khaki canvas tote with matching leather handles and detail. Read more about the new design here.