The first Inspiration Session is completed! (You can read more about the meaning behind an Inspiration Session in the previous post). Betsy is not only an inspiration, but a reminder to us all about being proactive about your health. Earlier this year, she decided to get tested for the infamous Breast Cancer Gene–she has a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer, and wanted to be safe about her own health. She is after all the most important and irreplaceable person in the lives of three precious little girls! The test came back positive, and the journey began. What started out seeming like proactive treatment to rid herself of the possibility of getting cancer in the future turned into a battle against something that was already there–something probably too deep and hidden to have been found if she had not decided to take that initial test. Betsy is likely to have saved her own life with that simple decision. But now the gears had changed, and the approach needed to be as aggressive as possible. Betsy was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, and opted to go for a double mastectomy and complete hysterectomy–leave nothing there for that nasty cancer to grab hold of again! Along with the multiple surgeries, Betsy underwent Chemotherapy–and opened up her body to what she, and others before her, have labeled the Red Devil–a potent drug intended to kill cancer, but it makes your whole body sick and vulnerable at the same time. She reminisces that despite all of the hype and all of her nerves about that particular drug, it didn’t feel like anything at all as it entered her veins for the first time–an eery feeling that something so seemingly innocuous will have such a powerful impact on your body.
I met Betsy when her mastectomy was completed, and her chemotherapy had not yet begun. She has been through a lot over the last several months, and I’m sure there have been some tough days, but every time I have seen or spoken to her she has exuded nothing but strength and positive energy. She kept her children’s lives so normal, and did such a great job of being there for them as a Mom despite all that she was going through as a woman. I cannot help but think that I could not possibly have handled her situation with such grace. Betsy told me that the cancer had changed her life–she is less likely to stress over the little things now–having a perfect clean house is not as high a priority as playing with her children. That alone is a lesson I think most Moms could stand to learn to some degree (myself included). It’s hard sometimes to slow down and take the time to really see and appreciate and understand your children. It’s just one of the things I’ve tried to take away from meeting Betsy–to remind myself of what’s important in life, and how to let go of the things that just aren’t.
Betsy’s journey is far from over–she herself admits that the scariest time is just beginning. When I went with her to her last treatment at the Cancer Center, she told me that ending treatment left her feeling somewhat uneasy. While she was undergoing treatment she felt certain that the cancer was not growing, and now that the treatment was ending she was entering into more of an unknown. For most of us, there is a sense of security in knowing that something is actively being done, and now Betsy is beginning the waiting game–cancer leaves lots of scars, some that will stay with the survivors their whole lives. So, remember that for anyone you know that is having or has undergone treatment for cancer, that the support should not end when the treatments do–sometimes that is emotionally the most difficult time.
Every person I meet through my work gives me something that I know I will hold onto forever. Every single one of them teaches me a small lesson as they open themselves up to allow me to photograph who they and their family really are. Betsy opened up a huge and very vulnerable part of her life to me, and for that I will be forever grateful. She has given me new goals, a new sense of what is truly important, and a smiling face to remember when I want to feel sorry for myself for some trivial hardship ship I’m having to face–she has faced worse, and with a smile, a laugh, and enough love to embrace three beautiful children, a loving husband and a sea of family and friends. They say that it is not what life hands out, but how you handle it, that defines you as a person–I think we can all tell who Betsy really is! They also say that if you change one life, you have changed the world. Well, Betsy, you have changed my life…and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Thank you!
A place where Betsy has spent a lot of her time in the last few months….
undergoing treatment to help rid her body of cancer for good.
And except for a few understandable grimaces of pain, you hardly saw anything but smiles from Betsy.
And she will tell you that she has had a fantastic support group of friends to help her through this….
Such good friends, that one even lent her some hair for this photo 🙂
But even without hair, Betsy truly is beautiful….inner beauty shines through, even when you are stripped away of those outer coverings.
Covered in the scarves and hats she will not need much longer (not that she ever needed them at all :)!)
In the comfort of her home, with a trademark smile that has not been faded or worn down by this illness.
And who says cancer can’t be fun–when your Mom is bald, why not paint her head?
Messy is almost always a sign of the best fun…
Saying goodbye to an illness that could not take her…her body may have changed but her spirit has not faltered.
A 12 balloon release–the number no accident, it was Betsy and her husband’s 12th Anniversary this year!
The full gallery of images will be available for viewing within the next few days…hopefully on my new website!!! Check back soon to get the link!