I am a strong believer in helping others. To give back to our community and pay it forward. Because by helping others we better the world, our community and in turn ourselves. It opens hearts and minds, and heals the soul.
This last year I was introduced to a wonderful organization, Magic Hour, that embraces this same belief by connecting Professional Photographers to individuals fighting battles with cancer. The photographers in this organization are vetted to ensure quality in service, and I can tell you right now...I cried when I filled out my application to them.
They asked "Why...". Why would I ever want to help someone fighting cancer? So many reasons for me....my Mother-In-Law winning her fight with breast cancer, my Father winning his battle with kidney cancer, my grandmother dying from ovarian & breast cancer....but the story that tugs the most on my heart is of my half sister's battle with breast cancer. A young mom of 3 kids, fighting a loosing battle.
Every year I wish I had more photos of her. Photos of her with her kids. Photos of her and I. Photos....just any more photos of her. If only Magic Hour had been around back then. She is the reason I applied, and the reason I love giving back to those in need.
So I applied, was accepted, and after almost a year of being a member, was connected with a local family that needed professional photos done. Miss Suzanne, a retired Army Vet, is battling Ewing's Sarcoma...a rare juvenile form of bone cancer. She and her family had never had professional photos done before, and they figured now was the perfect time.
Now, when you hear the word "Cancer", what do you think of? If you have seen the ugly side of cancer, you think of weakness...IV tubes...hospital rooms...death & grief. You expect the worst. You imagine a frail, sickly human being that is at deaths door. But Miss Suzanne was nothing like that. Her smile lit up the studio! She was bubbly, full of energy, joked around, and was excited for her photo shoot.
We had already pre-planned family photos with her loving husband, daughter and two sons, as well as some of her in her belly dancing costume. I was certain this costume was going to be one from years gone by...nope! This beautiful woman has been dancing throughout her chemo treatments. Performing in groups or by herself, for large audiences and small events.
All I could say was "Wow!". Amazed by the strength and happiness radiating from this woman. Her response was simply..."People in my treatments tell me I'm inspiring, but I don't think I am. I just like to dance, and there are much more inspiring stories out there."
Beautiful. Radiant. Humble.
And if you are wondering what her prognosis is, it's pretty good! Ewing's Sarcoma is very rare and usually only found in kids age 6-18. It is usually found in the legs and pelvis, but in Miss Suzanne's case her lower spine. The extreme pain she experienced this last year alerted doctors early, and treatments seem to be working well. She still has several more treatments ahead of her, but her doctor's seem hopeful for her recovery.
Her thoughts on her diagnosis "Well if I hadn't been such a child all my life, I probably never would have caught this!"
That right there. That's her! That wonderful sense of humor. That positive attitude. The joy and happy nature she exudes. This woman is a fighter. An inspiration, no matter what she says! An army veteran and I'm sure someday soon a cancer survivor.
I feel so blessed to have been connected with this fantastic woman and her beautiful family. To have had the opportunity to meet her amazing dance troupe, the Prairie Moon Belly Dancers. To have seen the love and support she has all around her. I am inspired. And I hope these photos are an inspiration to anyone else out there fighting back any illness. Stay positive and never give up.
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass…it's about learning to dance in the rain."