A few weeks ago I mentioned to a friend that I want to give back to my community somehow with my skill as a photographer. I wanted to photograph women suffering from cancer. I know a lot of photographers doing the same thing and I feel it is a wonderful thing, to be able to use our gifts as photographers to give a gift to someone who might not be able to afford something like this, nor feel that they are beautiful at this tough time in their lives. Fighting cancer is probably one of the most scariest things someone has to go through…. the uncertainty of the outcome, the severity of the suffering they will have to endure and the knowing as with any terminal illness that your line has been drawn.
We all know we will die, we don’t know how or when but when you are diagnosed with an illness such as cancer, I think (all though I don’t speak with experience) it must feel even more surreal knowing that the end is in sight. For some, the outcome has happy endings, as the illness surely is treatable when detected early, and some treatments prove to be very successful, but for others the outcome, not so happy and they have to deal with the fact that the family soon will have to go on without them. This is part of why these sessions are so important to me. We as photographers are able to give a gift to not only the cancer fighter but to their families and friends. I have read about so many people who had lost a loved one and all they have are the photographs of that person. Some don’t have any, and that must be just so awful. (I am myself very guilty of this as I don’t like being photographed….much rather be holding the camera! ) We need to change this. A photograph is a powerful thing to own.
So this friend knows some cancer patients, as she has always been involved with either fundraising campaigns of some sorts or just generally serve the local cancer council with anything she can….(she is an amazing cook and can cater for parties and functions as if its like getting dressed!) She organised a session for me with a lady called Shirley…..
I have never met Shirley prior to this, so I had no idea what to expect. I took some outfits, my make up kit , flowers, jewellery, and hair curlers to do her photoshoot in her home. She was to ill to travel and I am geared for on location shoots anyways, so it was really no trouble at all. Shirley is 70 years old and still has that sparkle in her eyes, that fighting spirit even though her doctors said to not expect to see the other side of April….. She was tired at times and I learned that with very ill patients, 3 outfit changes is the limit. I could see with her last wardrobe change she was very tired and did not have the energy to smile and engage any more. Lesson learned. Another lesson I learned was you can not pose and direct a sick person like you would a healthy one. They are in pain and uncomfortable. I changed the chair on which she sat halfway through our session because I realised her back was getting tired and her core muscles were to weak to keep her up straight. So I exchanged my ottoman with one of her dining room chairs that had a back rest. She was much more comfy in this and it went so much smoother from there.
My friend naturally made sure there were scrumptious treats for tea when we would take a break. Oh and did we all need a break! Sugar levels dropped and obviously the snacks looked and smelled amazing. It was a great treat for all of us, sharing a meal with someone you know will not be here sometime soon. What a blessing to have friends like this.
I leave your with my favourite image of all… Lovely Shirley. I am so glad I could document this time for her and her family, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and to serve. Thank you Shirley, may you have a wonderful, loved and blessed time with your family, for as long as you are allowed. For me and a millions of people out there will always have this scripture verse to cling to…..” Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, an I will dwell in Yahweh’s house forever.” Ps 23:4,6
Enjoy also this small video of our behind the scenes….