Why? I get asked why all the time. Why these people? Why this organization? Why would you do this to yourself?
If you followed the Twinkie saga, you’ll remember Dr. P., best doctor ever, a.k.a. that jerk who put me on bed rest and made my life a living hell for a while. What you didn’t know about Dr. P. was the story of his son, James. As I sat on the ultrasound table listening to him, tears rolled down my cheeks. I had found the group of people I wanted to work with: childhood cancer families.
After a forced hiatus, I jumped back into photography when the twins hit six months and started making connections with St. Baldrick’s families. I knew at some point I wanted to connect with James’ Mama, Patti, but was unsure how to broach the subject. Since I’m soooo shy, I connected via Facebook and she started to share James’ story. For those of you who ask me why, here’s why:
On August 23, 2004, three-year-old James was diagnosed with leukemia. His family had moved here from New York approximately one month prior to his diagnosis. Mom took James into Boulder Medical Center (where Dad, Mike, had just taken a new job) for a low-grade fever. After three weeks of feeling up and down, sleeping more, and eating less, they knew that something wasn’t right. After a round of blood work, they had the answer: leukemia.
Treatment for boys with leukemia lasts 38 months. James was a champ! He responded very well to treatment, and he was in a study at Children’s Hospital, which was ranked #4 in the nation for its oncology program that year. Once he finished his treatment (three years, two months), James went in for routine blood draws every four weeks.
Twenty months off of therapy, on August 19, 2009 (the first day of 4th grade) almost five years to the day, the leukemia was back. James had relapsed, and this time, it was an uphill battle every step of the way. His body had a difficult time managing the chemo treatments, he couldn’t fight infections, and he was in isolation constantly because of those infections, until his body could no longer fight. On May 25, 2010 (the last day of 4th grade) at just nine-years-old, James lost his battle to leukemia.
During James’ treatment, he and his family were heavily involved with St. Baldrick’s. Every year, this cool kid, Luke, shaves his head in honor of his brother. They have made friends with so many families over the years through this amazing foundation, and James’ friends still keep his memory very much alive.
While James’ life was short, he made a huge impact on those around him. He was “funny, sarcastic, mischievous. He was always ready to play a practical joke, always laughing when one was played on him!” He was “definitely the ‘alpha’ child. Insisted on being totally in charge of the TV! Loved being with his friends Oliver, Caleb, Ben, and Finn. Loved Legos!! Loved his monkey.”
This session with James’ siblings was one of my hardest sessions to date. I already knew and loved Anna and Luke, so it was fun to see these two again, but the magnitude of these photos was not lost: These were the first photos taken of the kids without James.
Did you know that forty-six children are diagnosed with cancer every day? Did you know that seven children die from cancer every day? Cancer is horrible. I work with these families because I love them, because it could have been us and not them, and because sometimes you just need to smile.
Patti, I hope that you are blessed by these images, and that I honored James’ memory. Thank you for sharing your story, and allowing me to tell it.
If you or anyone you know has a child battling or has battled childhood cancer, send them my way. I would love to bless every one of them with a complimentary family session.
*All photos of James are courtesy of Patti Farouche*
This beautiful girl is Siena. Siena was diagnosed with Leukemia on April 6, 2009. After going through chemotherapy, she finished up her final treatment on June 6, 2013. As a result of her treatment, Siena suffers from asthma & ADHD, but, as she enters 1st grade this year, her side effects are all in check!
Siena’s motto throughout treatment was Vini, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I conquered!
This is Siena’s mom, Laura. Laura is such a fun person to be around. She is happy, cheerful, and bubbly. Each year, Laura shaves her head in honor of her daughter’s journey through Leukemia.
In addition to Siena’s diagnosis and treatment, her older brother, Dylan was diagnosed with high-fiunctioning Autism, and her younger brother has gone through 5 surgeries for various ear, nose & throat issues. To say that this Mom is amazing is an understatement. Her dedication to her family is inspiring.
I am so honored to, again, be the one to photograph another St. Baldrick’s family. I am inspired, touched and in awe of what these families go through, how they walk through this fight and how strong they truly are. Thank you, Hernandez family, for letting me photograph your wonderful family. And thank you for another chance to learn more about this amazing community.
I am going to pull at your heartstrings today because this is something that weighs on me nearly everyday. I am a family photographer. It is my heart, my passion, my inspiration. My job is take capture your family’s essence at a moment in time.
Yes, you yelled, they cried, someone scraped a knee, someone wiped snot on your top, and you will be heading out for a shot of something strong after your session. These are all normal occurrences. You believe that only your children act a fool on the day that you need them to look like the perfect Stepford family. No. All children act this way. Especially on important days. It is how they are wired: how disgusting & obnoxious can we get before making mom cry? Welcome to parenthood. HOWEVER, my job is to take that heinousness, set it aside, and capture you, your interaction, your children’s smiles, their laughter, their whimsy, your love for your spouse, your love for your kids, in spite of them making you scream, cry & yell.
Recently, I have started working with St. Baldrick’s families. These families only intensify the importance of family photos in my eyes. As a mom, it is a stretching exercise to work with these families. It is every mother’s greatest fear realized: childhood cancer. It’s horrible. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment though. How much more important & valuable are those family photos now, knowing that your child is sick? Absolutely priceless.
I joke around a lot, but on this subject, I am dead serious. So many things in life are unpredictable. We are not promised tomorrow, and how devastating would it be to miss out on having your loved ones in the frame because you kept putting it off.
Yes, custom photography is expensive. I get it. It’s an investment. It is not easy for everyone to just drop a chunk of change on custom photography. However, I can’t tell you how many people I have come across since starting my business who have told me that they have lost sons, daughters, grandchildren, moms, dads, and one of their greatest regrets is never taking the time or money to invest in a session. The first time I heard a story like that, I came home & cried. How devastating!
If you lost a loved one tomorrow, the photos that you invested in would be priceless. You would cling to those images for the rest of your life. Skip Starbucks a few times, put away birthday money. Save some money, and find a family photographer that you love & trust. You will NEVER regret taking the time & the money to get your family photographed each year.