Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Radiant Beauty & The Light that Shines

I have been waiting for the perfect moment to share this story with all of you.

Yet, I’m not sure there will ever be the perfect moment to discuss cancer and the scars it leaves behind.

I’m not sure there is ever an easy way to discuss how hard living with cancer is and the pain it brings into the lives of those facing it.

However, last weekend I spent hours watching a www.creativelive.com class with Sue Bryce and Hailey Bartholomew on how to incorporate film into your business.  As you all know I closed my business in the fall of 2012, yet, my desire to capture women and to tell their stories has not gone away.  Nor has my desire to find a creative way to share my passion for their beauty.   I could write volumes about how this film class has impacted my heart, but instead I will share how it has inspired me to take the still shots I captured in November of Alexis and turn them into a short film.

First, allow me to share some of the details of how this story began.   In late September I received an email from a total stranger.  I was confused by her email because there was an email from another photographer in it and I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with me and why she was including me in the email.   It took a few emails back and forth for me to learn that she was given my name by another photographer who heard about my I AM BEAUTIFUL PROJECT and suggested that she contact me to capture her story of triumph in the face of a life changing story.  

Immediately I began to search for images of other breast cancer survivors. I was SOOOO excited when I found The SCAR Project and immediately shared it with Alexis. Go and see for yourself the power of David’s images. We both couldn’t wait for our session together! I began to plan how I wanted to pose her and prayed for the right kind of natural light for our time together.

You see Alexis was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer and went through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as, having a double mastectomy.     After the original surgery her left breast became seriously infected and she had to undergo emergency surgery to remove the breast implant.  Which left her with scars that truly altered her body.   Alexis was determined to not let that steal her beauty and how she felt about herself.   She wanted to capture how she looked at this very moment before she would endure a 15 hour surgery in December 2012 that would hopefully give her back what cancer had stolen from her…breasts that looked “normal”.    

She is beyond courageous and a true survivor.  Her spirit to persevere during this season of her life has changed me and I’m sure all those who know her well.   I trust you will walk away from this post a little different too.  She has faced so much since her original diagnosis.   Sadly the person who is supposed to be the one you can lean on when you must face cancer walked out of her life.  That story is so painful to hear and yet, she doesn’t hate him or hold a grudge for all the damage he caused by his choices.   She has forgiven and moved on.   Because she knows that life is too precious to carry a grudge and let it steal today or tomorrow from you.   She knows her battle is still not over and she is not using an ounce of her life or energy on anything that is not best for her!  

She is the beloved mother to a precious little girl, daughter to two dearly devoted parents (her father was diagnosed with cancer weeks of her hearing that she was facing cancer – one year of remission for him and then when we met in November her father was given the news that his cancer had spread.  Your prayers for their family are greatly appreciated!), and beloved friend to many!!!!!   As you can imagine the last two years have been extremely hard not only on Alexis and her daughter, but her mother who has watched both her child and husband fight with everything they have against cancer.  

When we finally met weeks after our initial emails and phone calls, we felt like old friends.  Our time together was truly amazing, extraordinary, and full of laughter.   Even though it was me who was supposed to make her feel comfortable, it was Alexis who made me feel like I could do her story justice through my eyes and camera.   I pray this blesses her and touches each of you to live boldly and LOVE more abundantly every single day.   Tomorrow is not promised.   Don’t let another day slip away without taking the best care of yourself, and knowing the signs of cancer.   Forgive yourself.  Forgive others.  Let the pain of yesterday go, and rejoice in all that today holds for you!

You can also watch this video at https://vimeo.com/58403786   I know it would bless Alexis for you to share her story.  Feel free to pin this post and videos. 

Get ready, this story gets better.  If you didn’t already have tissues, now would be a very good time to get a few!

For months I have been waiting for the following film to be shared by Hailey and Sue.   Last year right after my FIL passed away from cancer, they mentioned a woman named Jill who was fighting stage IV breast cancer and how it was now terminal.   Sue, Hailey, and many other amazing women whisked Jill away to Paris after being contacted by her best friend wanting help with the photos she took of Jill in hopes of telling her story to the world.  It was Jill’s dream to reach the world so no one else would put off getting checked when their body was saying something isn’t right. 

This past Saturday Jill’s dream came to life as Sue and Hailey shared her story live on creative.com and now her video is going viral.  Her story is touching the lives of thousands and soon millions.   Oprah has already tweeted about it and so have several other huge organizations.   You can become a part of Jill’s dream by watching her story and then sharing it with everyone you know.  Women like her and Alexis are my heroes – blazing the way for all of us to stop living our lives so shallow and embracing everything good life has given us.  

Thank you creativeLIVE.com for bringing Sue Bryce suebryce.com and Hailey Bartholomew youcantbeserious.com.au into my life!  Because of them women around the world have been set free to live boldly and triumphantly!!!!  They are walking vivaciously in LOVE for themselves and sharing it with all who are in their lives!!!!! 

I leave you with words I shared with a dear friend of mine after we both watched the Jill’s story this weekend.  She graciously made it into a quote graphic for us. 

You see friends my prayer is that after all that you have seen and read in this post you will desire to do one thing well – LOVE ON!

Quote by Jill Samter (LOVE) Photo by Stacee Taft Photography

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8 comments:

  1. I am almost speechless! An incredible journey for both Alexis and Jill. They are both equally beautiful and courageous in their own unique way.

    I know you had such a heart for the I AM BEAUTIFUL project. Maybe the Lord had this planned for you instead? I think that just may be true.

    I've had many friends experience breast cancer. I lost a dear friend of mine to breast cancer several years ago. It can be so devastating to a woman, especially how the world views a woman's beauty.

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to have REAL women in the pages of magazines instead of the photo-shopped ones that cause other women to doubt their beauty?

    Incredible story of two women that needs to be shared.

    Love,
    Debbie

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  2. Simply Beautiful, Jill - You continue to inspire me to be a better - everything...
    Love you so much.
    -Jeni

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  3. Two amazing stories about two courageous, inspiring, and beautiful women! I hope both their stories will inspire and help others to keep believing and keep pushing through no matter what! And maybe, we can all discover what is truly important in life, and to let the rest go...

    Love your quote as well (and the gorgeous God painting behind it!) - LOVE!

    xoxo

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  4. Oh, this brought tears to my eyes. I have just lost one of my very,very dear friends to Stage 4 breast cancer on January 9th. She was diagnosed just 11 months after a mammogram. I watched her very life just wilt away and it grieved my heart so. These videos are so compelling to say the least. Blessings to you and it's so good to connect with you again.

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  5. Jill, I love how beautifully you told Alexis story. You are such a creative mind and such a beautiful soul. Very inspiring.

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  6. Jill, I love how beautifully you told Alexis story. You are such a creative mind and such a beautiful soul. Very inspiring.

    ( I erased my Google account and it posted under some wired name or letter before)

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  7. Jill, I can't even find the words to describe how this post touched my heart. All I can say is thank you!

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  8. Thank you for sharing this Jill. Loved both stories and have added both to my prayer list. I love your tender heart!

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