I found out Candice had Breast Cancer when I answered her phone call while I was worlds away mentally in work mode shooting a conference in San Francisco. I remember thinking ” And so it begins. . .here we go” As in, all our girlfriends approaching or around 40 and now this is where cancer starts coming in and getting us 1 in 4 by one. Of course, I didn’t know what to really do for her to help. She has plenty of friends who rank higher on the totem pole for her who were already at her side. A wonderful supportive husband, too. And although my gut feeling was that she was going to make it through – I felt so sad for her and her family because she was a young Mom to her only 5 year old daughter. She had to live for her! The thought of her missing her daughter’s life – or her daughter having one without her mom to lean on or witness or be part of- to be honest not only broke my heart. But it scared me! This was the first one in my life that was like “This could be any of us” And the bullet hit her, not me. This time at least. . .
I was secretly hoping I could take photos of her journey. But when I missed the beginning of the story because of my busy life and wasn’t able to document it the way the photojournalist in me wanted to I surrendered to the fact that I missed the boat. As a mom of two young kids myself I don’t have the freedom to shoot a photo story of any kind properly. I was also hesitant in what my motives would be to make photos of her through this hard time in her life. Was there a point?
I took few shots of her in her bathroom before Candice had even decided what procedure she was going to take to rid herself of the cancer. These were taken solely for her as a record of what her body looked like before she had surgery on her breasts or lost her hair. It was all still up in the air.
Many weeks later Candice asked me take portraits of her. She had lost all her hair, she had undergone surgery and had a chunk cut out and had her breasts lifted to make up for the possible deformity. Symmetrical scars ran across the side of each breast and if you look closely you could see scars around her nipples where the surgeons had removed them to use it as the entrance into her breast. She had already healed physically from that. Her hair was just starting to sprout up again. She looked different.
She looked different. And she was different.
She walked into the studio and she emanated a strength and positivity that that was contagious. Or I wanted it to be. I asked her what it was like to go places in public and if people stared at her. Knowing that she was going through something, staring but not asking any questions. She told me that when she goes to Yoga, she usually wears her knit cap. She sets up her mat and looks around the room. She catches someones eyes, slowly takes off her hat to reveal her bald head, and gifts them with the biggest smile.
Although she still had radiation to endure, her diagnosis was good. Before, I had sensed a lot of worry in her. And now here was a woman who was in a much more “Be here Now” state.. She was candid, as always, about her entire experience. She looked mother earthy beautiful! There was no lack of laughter or smiles. I felt she had truly turned into a symbol of authentic strength and a lesson in the power of choosing your attitude and outlook in life creates how happy you are in life. A lesson to me if or when I am faced with, in her words, my own “life explosions”.
So I learned what the point of taking photos of my friend Candice who had cancer was.
Gratefulness, without fear, and Faith.