Those of you who have followed my blog may remember the brave and beautiful Jen as she was just beginning her battle with breast cancer, (click here to see the first post.) Well, I couldn’t be happier to announce that Jen has made it through her final chemotherapy treatment and is on the path to a full recovery. I was beyond honored that Jen asked me to photograph her in this second stage of healing before she faces more surgery and yet more healing. We decided to meet at a beautiful, secluded beach up the coast. Poor Jen got stuck in hours of terrible traffic on her way there, but she still arrived with a bright smile and willingness to brave the rock cliffs that I had her climb and the cold that I made her endure…I think that kinda sums up Jen’s spirit perfectly. While I was wandering around the beach before Jen arrived, I found a piece of driftwood that when pushed together with some effort, formed a heart. It made me immediately think of Jen, so I gave it to her during our shoot. I love the shots of her holding it, especially the one at the end of the post. Jen I adore you and wish you continued health.
I asked Jen to be my guest blogger again, because I know her words do much more justice to this experience than mine ever could. She kindly shared these words:
“With the completion of chemotherapy in the first week of June, my gift to myself was a celebratory photo shoot with Carlie. When Carlie photographed me in the winter, I was about to have a mastectomy on my right side, about to start fertility treatments should my reproductive system not “wake up” after chemotherapy, and yes, I was about to start chemo as well. Part of my reason for asking Carlie to photograph me was that I had a fear that I wouldn’t recognize myself anymore, both in body and soul. I was afraid I would be changed forever. Fortunately, I did about as well as anyone can do with chemotherapy: my side effects were pretty minimal, nonethless, chemo and all that goes with it made for a long winter. I learned that nothing (mastectomy, chemo, hairloss, etc) lived up to my fearful idea of it. Each time a big moment came up, I would have all kinds of anxiety and before I knew it, I had adapted, because really, what other choice do you have, and I was OK. I don’t think anyone goes through a brush with a life-threatening illness without a ripple through their soul, but I’m not convinced anymore that you become a stranger to yourself in the process. This experience has fortified my ties with my friends and family, and brought into the light new important people in my life. When I feel happy, I feel it deeply, with gratitude for the moment. I’ve climbed a mountain of sorts and I’m seeing myself and my world from a whole new vantage point. I think that’s what Carlie captured. With relief, I can say I am cancer-free and chemo-free. With triumph I can say I did it and it is behind me. With humility and gratitude I can say I love my life, my friends, my family.”