June 7th was a day to honour 7 women fighting cancer. Why did we do this? My story can be found HERE. But this blog post is about those women. Those smiles. Those fighting the fight everyone is afraid could some day come their way. This is about each woman’s journey, nomination, and just about giving them the chance to forget for just a moment about “CANCER”. To forget about medical terminology and treatments. Chemo / Radiation / Natural methods…all out the window for just a little while.
Before I introduce you to these amazing women, I want to share how this day even became possible.
I met Corrie through a spa and we instantly clicked. I photographed her and even used her house for a photography marathon last spring. Corrie should be in Hollywood doing make-up ! Her art is amazing and year after year she wins halloween competitions with her AMAZING work! Her mom Debbie does hair and they are an amazing team! When I approached her and asked if she and her mom would be willing to donate their time to do the make-up and hair / wigs for these women – they didn’t hesitate even a second! “YES”!!! Corrie also specializes and has been trained in make-up for oncology so was it meant to be? YES! You can visit Corries’ website HERE. Once the date was decided, Corrie was told about a benefit being held for her best friends 2-year-old daughter who is battling brain cancer…and the benefit (in a different province) was to be held the same day. Corrie already committed to giving her time to these amazing women, that she donated the day in honour of Sonya.
Corrie also works for Adolfo & Robert Galupi Salon / Spa – who also donated the 2nd floor of their salon to us for the day! How amazing is that? A Saturday! For a salon to donate a Saturday during wedding season says a lot to me and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with their kindness. Their spa is beautiful and so wonderful to photograph in:
I want to introduce you to someone by first sharing her email to me:
Please allow me to start by saying how unbelievably moving what you are doing is. I read this today in my FB news feed and was instantly hit with the realization that it is something I NEED to be a part of. To help (you, others in need) to make this unbelievably generous offer and day, one that they will never forget. I think the photos alone will be such a n amazing keepsake for those chosen and for their families. You took my daughter, Eliis’ newborn photos in September of 2012 and they touch me more than any other photo I’ve ever had and I have no doubt that these recipients will shine through your art and will touch others with their stories and faces of courage and bravery.
I have tears when I think about how special this is. My mother, grandmother and aunt have all been diagnosed with breast cancer and my mother also had Ovarian cancer. I am overjoyed to say that they all have (so far) beaten their cancers and my mom is going to be doing genetic testing to see if the gen is present in our family – which could certainly be quite telling for the fate of myself and my two sisters (as well as my daughter). Needless to say, this topic is close to my heart. I too think that God sent me a message (via you!) when I read this to be involved and to be a hand in completing this mission.
I am in the process of launching a Blog called “love you bunches” that focuses on gift giving, random acts of kindness, gestures of love and appreciation. I have created a que of posts for launch and one is actually a gift giving guide for cancer patients. My plan is to include useful gifts as well as a guide of messages / quotes to write in cards / letters as sometimes it is so hard to figure out what to say. When I read your plan today I also thought it would be great to feature what you are doing and add it as a gift giving suggestion as well. I was then hit with the idea of how I could potentially help YOU give even more to those chosen. I would love to solicit donation from local (and larger) businesses for products and gifts to include in an AMAZINGLY AWESOME swag bag for each of them! Since I already have a great list of helpful gifts for cancer patients I know where to start and i have some relationships with some amazing companies. Is this something you would be interested in ? Or do you already have this or someone working on this for you?
If this is not of interest to you, I understand. Please do let me know if I can also be of any help to you while prepping to shoot (wardrobe? coffee fetcher? photographer’s assistant?) Any way I can help give back would be my absolute pleasure.
Thanks again for doing this. Your generosity is inspiring, your creativity amazing and you are moving people. You moved me to write this long rambly email because I am so inspired and I barely know you.
With admiration and appreciation,
Katie has no idea I was posting her email, but without her, the gift bags that were given to these women would not have been as awesome and amazing as they were. Katie’s heart literally cried out to help in any way she could and she deserves a HUGE thank you. Katie’s blog can be found by clicking HERE – be sure to leave her some lovin’ and share some of your pay-it-forward-stories with her. **Katie also made our logo so when we do this on a yearly basis – it will be known. Her time was so invaluable to me. Her smile contagious, and her heart filled with love and warmth i absolutely cannot wait to work with her again and again!
Katie played shy during the shoot and wouldn’t let us take her picture but we managed to get one:
Another amazing team of people who donated their time and talents was RC2 Films. The videographers who said yes – to a Saturday during wedding season and took time from their business, from their families, from themselves to video this amazing day for these women. I’ll be sure to share their video once it’s done, but I can tell you that if you are looking for an amazing videographer team for your wedding or big event – these two were absolutely incredible to work with. Kind, and quiet, yet happy and smiling all the time. My first time meeting them and hopefully not the last time I get to work with them.
**and for Ramon to wear pink on his shirt proudly – we have to give an extra shout out! Seriously – these videographers were AMAZING! T-shirts were also donated by Doug Vair of fab print! He gave us both mens and womens’ shirts AND a few extra “just incase”. You can get to his company by clicking HERE.
Over this last year I have had a high school co-op student who has been such an amazing assistant to me. She’s always on time, always early, always stayed late, came to sessions even past her time line, and just wanted to help in any way she could. So when she asked what she could do to help on this day, I put a camera in her hand and she took pictures behind the scenes. Megan was amazing and just as much a part of this team as anyone else.
^^^^That is Megan taking a different view, and here is one of many of her images:
The gift bags for everyone was simply amazing! These bags were literally filled to the top with items such as encouraging DVD’s, Camisole / underwear sets, hand-made scarves, nail polish / manicure sets, discounts for mastectomy bras, a PINK KitchenAid, a gift for free house cleaning…and the list goes on! I just want to thank everyone who made donations to these bags!
Post Box Boutique (hand made scarves)
Belabumbum (Camisole/undewear sets)
Jessica Cosmetics (Nail polish sets + manicure set)
Love Sparkle Pretty (floral crowns)
Cake and Loaf Bakery (who graciously donated treats for the day!)
KitchenAid (Pink food chopper / mini processor)
Three Little Birds Cleaning (Free home cleaning)
Spic and Span Cleaning (Free home cleaning for Tammy who came from London for her session)
Simply Mind & Body (Pedicures) – by Christine Crowe * Babyface_bff@hotmail.com
I also wanted to send out a huge thank you to my father in law Dave who donated Healing bibles to every woman. It’s a bible of the new testament but with notes written by a pastors wife who survived Breast Cancer and who wanted this bible to be an encouragement to all those fighting cancer. Dave purchased them as he really felt these needed to be given to each woman for inspiration! Dave also purchased the Louis Giglio DVD Passion Talk Series. This is my favourite series of DVDs by a pastor who talks about creation and science involving space, the stars, the sun, and give an amazing talk about why we are here, what we are going through and just leave you in awe and amazement with images that cross the screen in a jaw-dropping rate!
And Jackie. My mother in law. A breast cancer survivor. Jackie made trays upon trays of chocolate covered strawberries for everyone to enjoy. Carefully searching out chocolate that can be eaten by those who may be still going through chemo. Jackie is one of the most amazing, serving women i have ever met and I am the lucky one who gets to be graced with her presents day after day. **I even forgot she was a breast cancer survivor until I was actually photographing the women and telling them about her chocolate covered strawberries. Not once did Jackie ever remind me that she too, had this horrible disease. I absolutely love my in-laws and am blessed daily by them living with us.
onto the submissions for these women. The emails that nominated them and the truth about their stories. Who they are. What they are going through, and why we chose to honour them this day.
Here is what I recall of Jen’s Journey.
I first met Jen years ago when I started work at Ambulance Dispatch. I was terrified of my new job. Any new job is stressful, but walking into a job where you don’t know anyone, are dealing with peoples, lives, and there is a ton of ing…all while being watched at every step – is scary! Jen was one of the people who I would love to work with on a first day. She was always warm, welcoming, encouraging, smiling and oh so helpful! Still, 8 years into the job I would pick her to work with.
She hasn’t got “spiteful” or “grumpy” in her years of dispatching and call taking. She is still polite to the medics, who are always so polite back. In August 2009, Jen went for her annual check up. At the end of August, her doctor left her a message telling her she had an appointment with another doctor in Burlington that September, that her pap had come back abnormal and she should call her back for more details. The details had to do with stage 3 cancer. At the appointment with Dr ______, the doctor from Burlington, she was not too concerned..”You don’t go from having normal paps for 19 years, to having stage 3 cancer,” she told Jen. She did a biopsy in the office. Jen went back to get the results in October 2009.
She found out it did look like stage 3 cancer. Dr _____ was still saying not to worry too much. She would then schedule a biopsy at the hospital. Jen would need surgery. The larger biopsy was done late November. Just before surgery, Dr. _____told Je there had been a mistake on her pap. 3 weeks later, Jen was to go back for the results. However, less than a week after surgery, Jen was to go in on the Monday for the results. Jen immediately called her family doctor, wanting the results. I couldn’t imagine waiting the 4 days it would take to get them. Talk about the longest 4 days of your life. Dr. Greiner, the family doctor, called Jen on Saturday November 28th, 2009, and told her the words no person ever wants to hear… “you have cancer.” Jen tells me it was hard to hear, but even harder to tell her family. The route of treatment would be 6 weeks of radiation, chemo and brachy therapy (internal radiation).
In May 2010, Jen returned to work. We were all overjoyed to have her back with us! Afternoon chit chat with Jen is always good. She always asks about my life…about my family..she is one of those people who truly cares about others. Bless her heart!
Jen continued to see a doctor – Dr. Patel, the oncologist – every 3 months for the first year and the second year it was every 4 months.
In the fall of 2012, she started to have back pain. She didn’t think anything of it as they were renovating, and she was painting wood trim. Late November 2012, she went to her family doctor for her annual check up, and while the doctor was examining her abdomen, both the doctor and Jen felt the artery in her stomach pulsate. She went for an ultrasound beginning of December to confirm it was not a AAA. It came back clear. PHEW! by Christmas 2012, the back pain was still there and in fact, getting worse. After another visit to the family doctor, she was sent for an x-ray and began physiotherapy. The x-ray came back clear. The nest step would be a CT. The family doc and Jen both knew Dr Patel would be able to get her in for CT faster. She seen Dr. Patel mid January. She was first examined by one of Dr. Patel’s interns. When he examined her abdomen, the same spot where the family doc had pushed, it took her breath away. The intern was quite concerned, and ordered a CT. the CT would be a week later, and she received a phone call to come in January 30th for the results.
That day, she found out the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in her abdomen, and was being referred to another doctor. Dr. Hirte would tell Jen a week later she would be doing chemo for 6 rounds, which would be until the end of June. This time with the chemo, she would lose her hair. The first round is what Jen describes as “brutal”. She was so sick. She doesn’t recall the first two days for the amount of vomiting. Homecare was ordered so she could get meds through an IV, and also IV fluids. Summer eventually rolled around, and Jen felt OK. By the end of August, the back pain came back again. A CT would show a lymph node had enlarged. She started a new trial. Along with the trial, she started 5 rounds of radiation. The second round was missed, as Jen was too ill. The next day, she was having leg pain, the left leg was larger than the right and it was red. She was not able to walk from the pain. Jen’s husband Tim, took her to the ER. After a run in with a LOVELY (please take note of my sarcasm there) ER doc, he agreed after 9 hours it was likely a blood clot. The next day, after an U/S, it was confirmed again. It took 6 weeks of shots before she could walk again. To this day, She still recieves the shot of fragmine everyday. It will continue until the cancer is no longer active. While everyone else was hustling and bustling for Christmas 2013, Jen got very sick again with vomiting. She had lost a lot of weight. After another trip to Dr Hirte, yet another CT, She headed for another appointment with her friend Steve, who is also a doctor. On Monday, January 13thm 2014, Jen was told the cancer had spread to her liver. Three spots, affecting about 5% of her liver. Presently, she is recieving chemo in the pill form. Two weeks of chemo, and two weeks “break”. She had a CT after the 2nd round, and the chemo shrunk some lymph nodes that had previously not changed, but the liver stayed the same. She will go for another Ct in 3 weeks. I have hope that the liver will have change.
Jen, you GO GIRL!! We’re all cheering for you on the sidelines.. You show us what strength and determination look like.
I personally had the chance to work with Jen when I worked as a dispatcher YEARS ago. I had NO idea until I received this letter that Jen was going through this. When I found out and called Jen, we both held back tears…Jen was so humbled to be chosen to be a part of this day, and I choked back tears that I didn’t know her story was even taking place.
This is Jen…
Let me first start by saying this has to be the most wonderful thing you could offer someone battling Cancer. Not only for them, but their families too.
I would like to nominate my mother in law Margaret.
I met Margaret 14 years ago when Ryan and I first began dating. Never did i think a family would accept me and my boys as their own family almost instantaneously, but she did. I always kid other s that I’m one of the blessed few to have such a wonderful mother in law, but frankly it’s the truth.
I worked with Margaret for 5 years where she was the charge nurse. She showed consistent compassion and caring for her patients; her dedication to her profession was far beyond a paycheque which inspired me to also become a nurse. Margaret was a nurse for 42 years before retiring in June 2010 at the age of 60.
The picture I’ve attached isn’t the best picture of her, but i captures her true natrue. People from around our community lined up outside the doors to say good-by when she retried. She is pictured with a gentleman she took care of who was crying when he had to say goodbye.
Margaret began having some dizziness and then a fall at thanksgiving 2011. At the time, blood work showed her sodium was low. In april 2012, while we were out together, she fell again, banging her head. This sent Margaret to WHGH. With quick thinking, they immediately suspected that the hyponatremia could be related to something much more significant.
In May 2012, Margaret was diagnosed with inoperable small cell lung cancer with the CT revealing an 8cm tumor firmly attached t her right bronchi. I knew right away the prognosis and devastation that small cell cancer meatn. As a police officer and nurse, our livelihood is to help people. We fix problems. We save lives. Cancer rendered us helpless. We could not fix this or make it go away, but simply put our faith in the oncologists and firmly place this into God’s hands.
Margaret quickly began aggressive chemo and radiation 4 days a week for 2 months. She lost her hair within the first 2 weeks. She lost so much weight because she could barely swallow. Never once did she complain to any of us. by the beginning of August, she became too sick to continue treatment. Despite blood transfusions and numerous bouts of antibiotics, her body was so weak and fragile, she could tolerate no more. In an attempt to proven metastases, the oncologist wanted to do radiate to her brain. She was able to tolerate 2 sessions.
It took Margaret more than 6 painful months to recover from her treatment. She’s been her brightest the last several months. Her most recent CT showed only significant scar tissue on her lung. A mammogram 2 weeks ago revealed a mass in her right breast. She just had an ultrasound last week for further investigation. We wait with bated breath. This journey is not over and the battle is not yet won.
Margaret would need treat herself to a special day for herself. Not in the magnitude that you’re offering. She is far too humble. I’m nomination my mother-in-law not only for her strength, bravery and dignity she has shown us for the last two years, but for her inspirational and compassionate person she been to me since the moment I met her 14 years ago.
This is Margaret…
I saw the post on your page about the free photo session for a cancer patient. As you probably know, I work in oncology – as a nurse and as an educator – and it’s a serious passion of mine.
As the educator for the in-patient oncology program at the Juravinski, I’ve had many, many professional and personal experiences with cancer. Cancer has touched my family as well. But the person who stands out in my mind is an old colleague of mine. Krista is currently in remission for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She started her career in oncology right out of school, because of her personal experiences with Hodgkin’s as a teenager. She moved her care from in-patient cancer patients to out-patient cancer patients at the Juravinski Cancer Centre as a nurse. She married, had 2 beautiful little girls and then was told her cancer returned in 2013.
Krista continued to care for our patients – supporting them through their diagnosis & treatments while providing hope and encouragement – all while enduring her own cancer battle. She had lots of support from her family and friends but her father was waging his own personal battle with cancer as well.
He kept his diagnosis a secret so that Krista could be strong during her treatment. It wasn’t until she was told shortly before Christmas that her cancer was in remission that he revealed that he had cancer and that the prognosis was poor. He died a few weeks later.
Krista has gone through so much in her short life. To experience elation and then grief within a short time period – must be so difficult. Krista is an amazing person – she continues to work at the Cancer Centre and is a support for so many. She is so kind and treats everyone with so much rspect. I have nothing but admiration for her.
I posted a link to her blog on my work facebook page – please check it out:
CLICK HERE to read her post.
Thanks for letting me share her story and thank you for having this contest! Even if you don’t select Krista, this is such a wonderful way to pay tribute to the fighters and survivors. Hope you are well my friend!!
This is Krista…
I would like to enter my Oma, Mary. My Oma is the strongest woman I know.
Your story really touched me. I too lost my mom to cancer. It’s a horrible disease, and leaves so many its wake.
I would love to nominate my friend, Brittany. She’s in her 20’s, and was just diagnosed with cancer for the 4th time. She battled it once as a child, and already twice in the last few years. She’s an amazing, positive person, and I think she would love this opportunity.
I spoke with Brittany a couple times via email…and the night before the session, her mom called to inform me that Brittany wasn’t doing well in terms of recovering from a surgery and therefore she didn’t think she could make it the 3 hour drive to take part in this day. I never got to meet Brittany, but she is worth mentioning and asking for prayers. 26 years old, cancer for the 4th time…treatments, chemo, radiation, surgery – this woman needs our prayers and support <3
When I decided to do this day for these women, Tammy was the first person who came to my mind. I have known Tammy since high school. We went to public school together (I wish I could post a “girls-just-wana-have-fun video from my 13th birthday party)…we went to high school together and though we never hung out regularly in high school, we were those friends that could talk anywhere, anytime like we had not skipped a beat. We lost touch over the years until last year when I saw on FB someone post a picture of Tammy. I friend requested her and that’s when I saw her story of what was going on. Tammy is 38. Married. Has 3 children and she blogs her story of breast cancer, treatments, how she feels…and her whole life with each day. It’s an amazing blog that will inspire and help women who are going through the same thing. Everyone has a story, but some people don’t want to talk about it…Tammy DOES share, and I encourage you (especially if you are fighting this decease in silence)…to read her blog. She KNOWS what you are feeling!! So Tammy had my nomination. Here is her story (taken from her blog page)…
I found a lump. That’s how this started. It was june 2013. I had just finished nursing my youngest daughter about two or three months before. I thought it might be a blocked duct. I was wrong.
I found out I needed a biopsy after having a ultrasound. I was originally scheduled for a mammogram and ultrasound but they wouldn’t do the mammogram because I hadn’t stopped nursing for a year. Something to do with all the changes in your body during nursing. So they just did the ultrasound.
I got a call two days later stating I needed the biopsy. They didn’t make it sound urgent. So I waited for the appointment. The next day my step-dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He was rushed into surgery two days later with chemo and radiation to follow then, more surgery. I put the biopsy information on the back burner.
Two weeks later I received the information of the biopsy. They wanted to do a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy all together. Then my family doctor got on the phone. She started saying things like “this is not good” and “we are going to treat this aggressively”. WHOA! Hold the phone!! My first question: “what does the ultrasound say?”
“Highly suspicious for malignancy.”
Hmmm, wasn’t expecting that.
That was on the Friday. I went and had the ‘work up’ on the following Wednesday. Being a nurse I could read between the lines. I knew it was cancer. What I didn’t know, until the biopsy results came back, was that it is in my lymphnode.
Diagnosis day (D-day). September 9, 2013. Dr. Scott called me in to give me the news. They took two biopsies of my breast and one from my lymph. The second biopsy was negative. Promising.
I have had an MRI and am awaiting a CT and bone scan.
Surgery is booked for Oct. 4. With six months of chemo to follow.
It going to be a rough road this next year.
We told my oldest daughter, Gabby is 11. And she sobbed. So did I. I hate that she has to deal with this. Being an 11 year old girl is hard enough with hormones and body image. Now add “mommy has breast cancer” to the mix. She has poured herself into the pink ribbon campaign. Drawings and t-shirts. Painting her nails with the pink ribbon! She even formed a fundraising group with some school chums. They are putting together monthly activities and the money raised will be in support of the breast cancer fight.
The other children are young. Mackenzie is 5, Carter 3 and Sinclair is 16 months old. They are too young to know what’s going on. We will tell them what they need to know when they need to know it. Please respect this. If you are talking to me with little ears around, be cautious of what you say.
If you have questions, please ask me. I will do my best to answer them. If your daughters have questions, they can ask, too. (Or son’s!!). I don’t want gossip and rumors or negativity around me or my family. So if you can’t be positive then stay away until you can!
My husband is a cancer survivor. He was young when her was diagnosed. 19. He went through a lot. But he survived. I worry this is bringing up some unpleasant memories for him. I hate that I am causing him pain.
He is also a very private person, so when he finds out about this blog he’s gonna kill me! 🙂
So, in short, think of me when considering the importance of your BSE! (Breast self exam)
‘Breast health to you all’
If you want to read more from Tammy or follow her story, you can click HERE.
This is Tammy…
I can’t say thank you enough to all those of you who nominated these women, donated their time to these women, who took time from your days to make these women feel amazing and special, and to just give them a few moments cancer-free to be pampered and loved on. Thank you so much everyone who GAVE from your pockets to these women. From catering, to flowers, to pedicures, skin products, kitchen products, clothes…the list just goes on and from the bottom of my heart. I know you are care for each of these ladies and it shows by your compassion and giving hearts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And to you ladies…THANK YOU for putting your faith in us that we would deliver a time of pampering and making you feel beautiful. You all have inspiring stories of courage, hope, and love. Thank you for letting us into your lives in such vulnerable times. My God grant you peace, love, joy, forgiveness, hope and healing.
Tonia & The team! xoxoxoxoxox
**Please make sure your volume is on for the video: