Revealed and Reserved

When Jan received an email from a friend letting her know about The Reveal Mission, her curiosity was piqued just enough to pick up the phone. Little did she know the healing that would result just because she took action.

I met Jan and her husband at a coffee shop. She had questions about The Reveal Mission. He had questions about my motives. They wanted to know the scope of the project and whether or not the portraits would be online. They wanted to know if there would be a book and if so, how much money I’d make. I was honest with them about the origin – that I wanted to start with an initial art show, and we all could figure the next step out together. They told me they’d think about it.

Four days later Jan called me. Her husband, who isn’t the most expressive person in sharing his feelings, had made a request. While he backed Jan 100% in participating in the project, and didn’t mind if she shared the breast that cancer had robbed from her, he asked if she would reserve the breast that the two of them still shared.

Jan was crying on her end of the phone. I was crying on mine. There was the possibility that Jan wouldn’t have heard all that her husband felt about her and her body had they not been discussing their participation in the project. Whether or not they decided to do a portrait, their involvement was already a success.

That night I was taking photos at a concert and heard a beautiful, soulful rendition of “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” I thought about Jan and her husband and the idea for their portrait began to take shape.

The next time we met, Jan and her husband told me their cancer story and I shared the photo idea with them. By the time we went to do the shoot they chose to involve their daughter, because cancer touches the entire family, not just the patient. Their daughter did the body paint on her parents, suggesting the word “Reserved” begin at her dad’s ring finger. A lot of laughter took place during the painting process.

When I asked Jan about why she wanted to be involved in the project she said that she would like to see others be more comfortable sharing their cancer journeys. “I wish more people had said something to me. I could have used more Survivors stepping forward during the time of my diagnosis and my surgery. By revealing myself to the world I am making a statement to not be afraid that others won’t listen, that it is okay and healing for us to talk about CANCER! I have always wondered what my life’s purpose was supposed to be. I’ve now discovered I have a gift to share – that gift being connecting and talking with Survivors one person at a time.”

Now Jan has become this project’s biggest fan. She is also an active volunteer working with The Cancer Connection Idaho, a new non-profit organization whose mission is to offer a broad community-based program of sustained social, emotional and educational support, without charge, for all those living with cancer, their families, caregivers, and friends in a home-like, non-medical environment. Her hope is to connect those who are hesitant to ask for help with the many resources available for them in her community.

 Jan’s daughter began singing “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts,” and we all cracked up! Laughter is so very healing and important – definitely the best medicine in the world. There is life beyond a cancer diagnosis!  

Jan’s daughter began singing “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts,” and we all cracked up! Laughter is so very healing and important – definitely the best medicine in the world. There is life beyond a cancer diagnosis!