Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beauty is in the Eye of...Photoshop?

If you pick up the April issue of Good Housekeeping—the one with Dr. Oz on the cover—and turn to page 59, you’ll find a full-page photo of yours truly.

Or will you?

My 11-year-old’s first reaction? “Mom, this doesn’t look anything like you.”

I beg to differ. It looks exactly like me. Only better.

Let’s backtrack. A few months ago, I was contacted by Good Housekeeping to be interviewed about a powerful, and effective, new cancer drug. It was an immunotherapy and the one that I had taken. It was the one that saved my life, because having been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma in 2006, my chances for survival were slim to none. I entered a clinical trial for a drug called tremelimumab (say that three times fast) and had an immediate, positive response to it. My tumors, which numbered in the hundreds, began to shrink and fade (many were bluish and on my skin) and were eventually eradicated. It was nothing short of a miracle.

The cousin of this drug, ipilimumab, will be approved by the FDA for use in metastatic melanoma patients this Friday and believe me, this is an occasion for celebration. Now, there is hope for people who once had little hope for survival.

But back to the photo. After I was interviewed and the story was edited, I was asked for some photos of me and the family. Trouble is, we don’t have too many photos, so the Barbieri family started photographing each other, with limited success. Here is an example of one of the photos we took and submitted to GH.

After sending the editor at the magazine a bunch of photos, she called and said that they would be sending a photographer to me to take a photo. Little did I know what that entailed.

The photographer was a wonderful guy named Rob Howard who couldn’t be nicer or more respected and well-known in the photography world. He was accompanied by his lovely wife, Lisa, a professional hair and makeup stylist named Birgitte, and the shoot stylist from Good Housekeeping, Bill. Of course, because they were coming from a housekeeping magazine, I vacuumed, dusted, and had my friend, Susan (from the wonderful Baked by Susan—“like” it on FB!) make scones. They were duly impressed.

Until they moved my couch.

As I sat getting my hair and makeup done by Birgitte, I heard Rob, who has photographed kings and OPRAH (!) ask, “Does Maggie have a vacuum?” At his uttering of those words, my hair, formerly poufed and teased, fell just a little bit. Why, oh why, Rob Howard, did you have to move the one piece of furniture that I haven’t vacuumed behind since the Clinton administration?

Once the house really was clean, thanks to Rob and his team, it was time for my photos. Three hours and about two hundred photos later, they had their shot. And here is it.

Yes, I am a little airbrushed, and no, my teeth aren’t that white, but I think it’s a pretty good representation of my overall look. The one thing that makes me very happy is that it is a photo of my laughing, which really reflects my overall outlook on life and the spirit of this article. I was nervous that my joy at overcoming a diagnosis like Stage IV melanoma wouldn’t be adequately expressed, but it is. And this photo really illustrates the happiness I feel every day that I am still here to discuss something that at one point, had a very questionable outcome.

I hope you’ll pick up this month’s issue of Good Housekeeping magazine even if it’s only to see how clean my house is.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Maggie, you DO look the photo. The joy is evident. And the article is fantastic -- makes you cry and makes you cheer!

    Bravo for the treatment, for the doctor, for the fantastic photo, and for the clean house. Hey! Bravo, YOU!


  2. Great post and I'm going to find a newsstand and pick up my copy.

    Looking at your photo makes me smile.

  3. Thanks, Dru and Marian! Dru, seeing you makes ME smile, so we're even! Maggie

  4. What an incredible post & journey! That's some story on so many levels--and a beautiful photo! Continued excellent health to you, Maggie!

  5. I'm sending around a msg to friends re: the blog and the magazine piece.

    Good for you.

    I think you look beautiful in both photos, the "home cooked" and the "fancy dinner out" version.

    This is simply because you ARE and always have been beautiful, on plenty of levels!

    And, yeah for medical science and all the people out there who will benefit from this new treatment.

  6. Ooops--forgot to add that you make me a little sick because you look great with short or long hair! How do you do that?!?!

  7. Laura and Vicky, thanks! I don't think I really conveyed how surreal the photo shoot was. Oh, and it was on a snow day, so everyone was here to spectate! Maggie

  8. Did you tell the audience that you'd be there all week (and beyond!) and that they should remember to tip their waitress?

  9. Hey, I warned you about them moving the sofa, didn't I? ;-) I hope millions of people read the magazine and take heed. Your story is an eye-opener and worth reading even without the pretty pictures! How wonderful that the drug is being approved for melanoma patients! Yahoo! Hopefully, it will save many more lives. I'm awfully glad it saved yours (however weird that sounds to say!). We should have a party on Friday to celebrate. :-)

  10. Congratulations Maggie!! That is a well deserved honor and it helps others know that strides are being made in the fight against cancer. : )

  11. The photo is great. I laughed at the comment about the couch--I would have the same problem. I'm so thankful that you're well and with us.


  12. I'm so glad you are better and you look great. The less said about moving couches, the better, at least in my house. I will see if I can find a copy of the magazine. Btw, I have always loved your books. continued health to you.

  13. Maggie, you look beautiful. I can't wait to read the article:) You are truly an inspiration to us all!

  14. What a great post and a wonderful photo! Excuse me. Now I've got to grab my coat to run out and find that magazine. Sounds like a fabulous article...

  15. Maggie, You look radiant and gorgeous. Seeing your photo put a smile on my face...glad the treatment's working well for you! I'll keep an eye out for the GH issue.

    Definitely DON'T waste your time vacuuming under the couch when you can be working on book 6 instead!


  16. Maggie,
    Loved the article and you look radient in your photo. Congrats on being a responder. I was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma in Aug 2005. I am alive today due to what was MDX-010 aka ipilimumab - now Yervoy! Celebrate life! -Rocco, Stage IV

  17. Rocco, thank you for this uplifting comment! I'm so glad to meet another Stage IV survivor...I go for my checkup soon and your comment was just what I needed to hear. Thank goodness for ipi and for everything else that melanoma docs are working on to help patients like us thrive. Continued good health and happiness. Maggie