In August, we opened the nomination form for our second “Diva For A Day” contest. The prize: a spa service, hair cut and color, makeup application and lesson at Claiborne’s Salon & Spa, shopping for an outfit at fab’rik at The Avenue East Cobb and dinner for two at Drift Oyster Bar.
written by Robyn Ware
photography by Erin Gray Cantrell
We received submissions that included entrepreneurs, spouses and friends who didn’t give up when the going got tough, stories of cancer survivors and stories of their caretakers.
Picking a winner for the Diva For A Day contest is one of the toughest and most inspiring things the editors at Cobb Life do but one man’s submission for his wife stood out for the way he described her love, strength and encouragement.
This is the story of Cobb Life and Claiborne’s Salon and Spa’s 2016 Diva For A Day.
When Branda and Kenny Ondick moved from Florida to Cobb County with their two daughters in 1993, they never imagined the journey that lay ahead. They just knew they loved being nestled between the mountains and bustling downtown Atlanta, with the beach only five hours away.
Twenty-three years later, a walk through the backyard in that same house more resembles Dr. Doolittle’s than a cozy abode in Marietta. With more than a dozen turtles, two dogs, two cats, goldfish and koi ponds, the Ondicks have become the neighborhood animal rescuers. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Each workday, Branda takes that same spirit of care with her to the Publix on Bells Ferry Road, where she’s worked the past 10 years.
“Never would I have thought that my dream job would be at a grocery store, but today there’s nowhere else I’d rather work.”
Branda attributes the satisfaction she experiences at work to the customers and coworkers she sees on an almost-daily basis.
“It’s really the people that make a place, and the people here feel like family.”
At work, she responds to “mama” more than her birth-name and knows most customers by name. She asks about their lives. And they ask about hers because they know much of what she’s endured.
In 2009, Branda was diagnosed with a benign but inoperable tumor behind her right ear.
Doctors watched closely and the growth seemed to be under control. However, two years later, cancer appeared in the Ondick’s lives once more, this time in her husband, Kenny, and in the form of Stage IV colon cancer with precancerous cells in his lungs. Any concern Branda had for her own health was now shifted entirely on her husband.
“She worked tirelessly researching cancer-fighting foods and supplements,” Kenny says. “Every time I looked at her, she was on the computer looking up naturopathic methods to supercharge the immune system. She completely transformed the way we eat.”
In 2015, Branda was again forced to shift focus to her own health, when the tumor over her ear started growing and was causing hearing loss. She began an eight-week series of radiation treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.
During that time, she became close with other patients in the waiting room, praying with them and encouraging them. At the end of the eight weeks, hospital staff along in the radiology department awarded her a certificate deeming her the “Light of the Waiting Room.”
“All of a sudden, I was this light for those people,” she says. “And I realized when we encourage others, we naturally see the blessings in our own lives.”
When asked how cancer has changed their perspective, she says, “When you’re living with cancer, you don’t talk about the long-term. You may talk about tomorrow or next week, but all you really have is the now. You start rejoicing for the present day, the present hour. We should always do that but sometimes it takes a tragedy like cancer to remind us.”
Branda’s tumor has shrunken and Kenny still goes to chemo every two weeks. They are enjoying each moment as it comes and still can’t turn away an animal in need of a loving home.
Branda’s Diva Day Run Down
11am: Branda arrives at Claiborne’s Salon & Spa (www.claibornesalon.com) with her friend Mary Pat for a deep tissue massage with massage therapist, Julie West.
Noon: She moves to the salon side of Claiborne’s for hair with Terry Claiborne.
“We did a multi-dimensional color that plays off of her naturally warm hues, followed by a color enhancement and subtle high & low lights,” Terry says. “For her cut, I did long layers on top with interior layers for volume and brought her length up a bit.”
2pm: Next, Branda moves to the cosmetics station with Claiborne’s makeup artist, Michelle Riede. Michelle chose a warm pallet that played up our winner’s naturally warm skin tone.
3pm: Branda heads to fab’rik in The Avenue East Cobb (www.fabrikstyle.com) to peruse the trendy shop’s new arrivals. With the stylist help of fab’rik’s assistant manager, Nicole Blochinger. She leaves with a fall style that pulls together her new look.
To top off Branda’s Diva Day, Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar (www.driftoysterbar.com) graciously gave her a $100 gift card to savor their simply prepared coastal American fresh seafood in style. May she enjoy her new look in the most delicious way. // Photos courtesy of Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar //