To Have and to Hold
I stumbled across you today and I am reaching out to see if you can help me. I regret that I didn’t get to see your work on Breast Cancer Survivors as I just heard about it today. You see, I was just diagnosed with breast cancer and will be having surgery this Thursday for a double mastectomy. I am really grieving this loss that I am about to experience. A thought came to me that I should have pictures of myself as I am now… as a reminder of these breasts that have been such a part of me for such a long time. Would it interest you to do a shoot for myself to help me keep a part of this memory?
Jamie and I met with Debbie the following morning. There was an immediate connection. Taking photos, whether they be pre-op or post-op isn’t really the point. I think most all breast cancer patients have had photos taken of them in their doctor’s office. What Debbie wanted to capture were memories that went way beyond tissue and mammary glands, and really the only way to do that is through stories.
Debbie shared her journey with us – lots of thoughts, emotions, and memories. She already has a Survivor spirit about her that is going to be incredibly helpful on this path of healing. Though I don’t want to spoil her story here (yes, that means she intends to share it later), while sitting with Debbie she verbalized some things for the first time. It brought tears. The tears are lubrication for freedom.
Debbie showed back up that evening with her husband. He sat next to his wife on the couch and never stopped touching her shoulder, and affectionately rubbing her back. He opened up about his own concerns and how he has been praying for her healing.
When we went to take pictures it felt more natural than you might think. Her husband stood beside me admiring his wife and mentioned that he had wanted for years to take topless photos of her. She told me how all the women in her family have large breasts and that she always saw them as a badge of honor. We all laughed and then he moved in to join her in front of the camera.
The portrait you see was planned, in as much as they came to my studio for photos, but it wasn’t posed. I gave them no direction, what was captured digitally is simply a moment of their love.
We were planning to hold the photos for later, when Debbie was ready to see and embrace her ‘before’ photos. We don’t know when that will be. But when I saw this particular image I felt it could be healing for them now. I sent it to Debbie and she and her husband received it in tears.
Debbie told me tonight on the phone how much freedom she received from the photo shoot experience. Again, I don’t think it had to do with the camera, it had everything to do with how Debbie was learning to let go, embrace her ‘now,’ honor the past, and press forward to tomorrow.
Not only did they agree to let me share their portrait, Debbie invited me to capture her entire journey in photos. She knows she has a story to share. I am so honored to get to walk alongside her and her family. I will be at the hospital with them trying both to give them their space as well as capture their story.
What you will see and hear in the future is the life of a brave Breast Cancer Survivor. What she needs to hear right now is your encouragement and prayers.