Stories of Survival Breast Cancer Edition,
On September 17, 2014 I had the privilege of being the Photographer for The Canadian Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon and Parade.
It was bittersweet really, as I lost a friend three years ago to this terrible disease. A friend I only knew briefly but made such an impact. Currently I have another friend surviving and thriving in the face of breast cancer. It is such a terrible disease, I did this for them to help in raising awareness.
It was an experience like no other. So many smiling faces, embraces and genuine happiness.
I was unsure how the day would really go. I was there to do a job, a volunteer job. My job was to photograph the event, the survivors and get candid shots.
It became more than just a volunteer job that day. It became a day of connection, seeing the stories in people’s eyes and hearing them come from their mouths. These ladies were so proud to be survivors and happy to do what they could to share their experiences with those around them. Sharing with those who understood and have been there.
These women captivated me from the start of pretty much every conversation or maybe it was their genuine smile or the slight flirting they did with this photographer. Captivated by them, their stories, their pride.
I met an 83 year old woman who was a 43 year survivor who shared that this was the first year her husband would not be there to see her come down the escalator. Sadly he passed away in the past year. She spoke of how hard the battle had been, the fear of being told she had cancer. She said it was all worth growing through because of the relationships she has made over the years of attending these events.
Then there was a woman who was in her mid 50’s. Twice a survivor. She told me of the toll it took on her husband and her. Their relationship struggled, after the first battle with Cancer. Now, because this is a public blog, I won’t share the exact struggle as it is her story to share with whom she wishes, not mine. I am honored she shared with me. Anyway, once diagnosis 2 came around with battle #2 they worked together and their relationship became stronger. She even said “ I may not be as young as I once was but I am still a looker .” She has had a double mastectomy and a reconstruct and was now a 12 year survivor. This made me smile, she smiled. It was great to see her confidence.
Pink and Purple hair, not just dyed for that day but always dyed that way. A 77 year old woman who says she does it so she does stand out, so she can tell people why. I was drawn first to that beautiful hair then her eyes as they lit up as I complimented her style. 20 year Survivor full of life and youthful even in her 70’s. I took a few photos of her to ensure I captured her eyes along with that wild hair.
I spoke with a few 20 plus tear survivors who have attended all 11 years of the Luncheon and Parade. They told me of being there for others who are new to their battle with Breast Cancerand having a kinship with others who have been there…..because they understand each other. It really is a sister hood. These women hang out throughout the year and for those who don’t they love seeing everyone each year at this event.
As you look into their eyes as they tell their stories you can see joy of survival but still a little hurt as they recall the first diagnosis, the chemo, mastectomies, reconstructs, loss of relationships but gaining of new ones. Realizing who your friends are by going through all of this and making new life long friends.
I was told of the Rowing Club who recently won the championship. IN 17 years of the club they have fortunately ( or unfortunately? ) Only had 12 ladies pass from this disease.
The ladies flirted with me, touched my bum and even told the stories of being older but now having the breasts of a 20 year old. I took over 800 photos and my friend Steve took another 600, we captured the emotion, the excitement, the speakers, the staff and the onlookers.
The funniest story of the day was during the draw for door prizes. One prize was for a bag that had lingerie in it. Well……
Out comes the Lingerie, the thongs and immediately laughter engulfs the whole room as these women put the underwear on their head, flung a thong at Steve and even offered me a private showing later ( which of course was a joke….or maybe not haha. )
I could go on and on with stories from today but a blog post does not really allow for that, so , I will conclude with this.
Cancer in any form is scary. Most diseases are scary. Sadly many will leave this earth as we still try to find cures and treatments. If you are a survivor you have a choice. You can just sit back and do nothing or you can create awareness and encourage others who are going through the battle. You can get involved by volunteering and offering your talents to whatever cause you are passionate about. It is not always about donating money.
OK, one more thing.
Whether you are a survivor or had struggle of any kind or not, just listen. Listen to those who have been through some struggle. Even if their story does not inspire you, the sparkle in their eye from being able to share to anyone who will listen will warm your heart. Listen for them. Listen for your heart.