It seems an odd way to start off a brand new website with the first blog entry about death, but for days I have felt the need to be sure this is there. It will always stand out as my first.
I knew Shanara from working with her mom. She would stop in every now and again, and always have a happy cheery smile on her face. Even though she was a teenager, which I find intimidating, she just brought a brightness with her.
When I heard she was diagnosed with cancer, I no longer worked with her mother, so I asked around, added her support page to my facebook, and tried to stay current with her condition. I tried to visit her, but the day I stopped she had been able to get a daypass and wasn’t there. I was so happy for her. I left her a note and some fudge which her mom shared was a favourite. She was a girl after my own heart right there!
When the news hit and went around our small town that Shanara was indeed in remission, I was ecstatic. We have all been touched by cancer and I’m no exception. I knew this was huge. I messaged her on fb and asked her if I could do a shoot with her to celebrate. I was one happy photographer when I got back a message right away saying she would love it. She asked if she could bring along a girlfriend who had been an integral part of her recovery. The answer was of course a huge yes. We met to talk about the shoot and what she would like and some different ideas to show some of the things that happened and help get her through. I was mesmerized by her spirit, she was just so happy and positive. I loved her that day and couldn’t wait for the shoot.
At last it was shoot day and as promised she brought along her amazing friend Jens to help celebrate in picture form. They were so patient with me and did everything I asked. Their matching touques to their cancer bracelets, to their shirts, I wanted to capture it all. It will always be the most meaningful work I will do.
From then on we messaged on fb and stayed in touch. My heart broke when I found out shortly after our life-changing (for me) photoshoot the cancer had returned. She was in for a long haul but she faced it head on and again I was wowwed by her fierceness to do what she needed to do. This time around, my in-laws for different reasons, were in the Pasqua hospital. We spent a lot of time there. We visited Shanara often, got her pictures blown up so she could hang them on her already very decorated hospital wall. I wanted her to remember how she felt that day, on top of this horrendous disease. She made my day when she asked me to cook her Italian food because she heard I made a great sauce. It’s such a great feeling to finally feel like you could do something for someone in her position. We even got to know Dakota while hanging out with her, and were so excited for the perfect match they discovered he was for her stem cell transplant.
I felt bad that her next battle was going to be in Saskatoon and we wouldn’t get to see her. She may not have liked it either, but just did what she knew she had to do. But eventually, the excitement of hearing she was cancer free was there!
When I learned on May 22nd that she had passed my world changed. I had talked to her the night before and she explained she was admitted for some tests. I was worried for her but never saw that coming.
She changed the way I see my work. Her pictures will be a part of what I do forever. I will never see a client the same way again. There may come a time when those pictures are what those left behind have to enjoy the memories brought to them.
Thanks for the beautiful memories Shanara!