BEFORE cancer. AFTER cancer.
It’s the simple way my brain has tried to make sense of the most complicated, devastating and emotional time of my life.
Right after I wrapped up a heart-warming family photo shoot on the evening of June 14, I looked at my cell phone to see several texts and voicemails waiting for me. A gut feeling told me something was wrong. Terribly wrong.
Soon after, my instinct turned out to be my worst nightmare: “Your mom has liver cancer.”
Those 5 words instantly flipped my world upside down and inside out.
Those words kept echoing louder and louder, as I screamed even louder: no…no…..NO. There was NO WAY it was possible.
My mom is the epitome of health. She was already eating seaweed, ginseng and organic fruits long before the days of Whole Foods + Trader Joe’s. She drinks green tea instead of alcohol. She works out, volunteers and travels. Some of her gifts to us include a juicer, foot massage machine, aloe face masks and vitamins. Nearly every phone call ends with a health tip: “Eat more purple grapes.” “Don’t drink too much coffee.” “Look into getting acupuncture.” “Make sure you’re sleeping enough.” “Wash your veggies.” How could this be happening?
Every breath was hard to breathe. An hour seemed to last forever. Each step got heavier.
My brain went blank, my heart raced and I didn’t know what to do.
The one thing I did know was that I needed to hug my mom.
With the help of my rock solid husband Matt, studio sidekicks Micah + Alicia, friends and angels along the way, I dropped everything and hopped on the first flight to San Antonio. Everything happened so fast that my mom didn’t even know I was flying in! My sister Jessica picked me up, drove me straight to our parents’ home and I collapsed on top of her. There were hardly any words exchanged. Simply tears, love and the longest hug we’ve ever had.
I made up my mind right then + there that cancer would NOT break our spirits. We would stay strong, be positive, remain feisty and lean on God. After all, that’s how our mom raised us.
Easier said than done. From that point, the moments that followed were some of the worst and some of the best.
Low point: Bad talking a no-bedside-manner doctor who stood with his arms crossed and spewed out a ton of stats.
High point: Hugging incredible doctors and nurses who sat with us, talked with us, checked in on us and recommended a chaplain to pray with us.
Low point: Twisting my body onto a tiny rock-hard recliner, so I could try to sleep in my mom’s hospital room.
High point: Squeezing into her hospital bed and cuddling for hours.
Low point: Wanting to crash my car into a guardrail. Dark? Yes. But I’m keeping it real here. Cancer does some insane things to your mind even when you’re not the “patient.”
High point: Driving my mom everywhere, as she constantly complained about my lack of direction and parking skills. It’s the first time I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her loud nagging.
Low point: Doing research to buy the domain www.fuckcancer.org (FYI: it’s still available)
High point: Scouring the Internet for healthy recipes to make sure she was eating the best cancer-fighting foods out there.
More high points: Morning stretches on my parents’ patio, family worship + prayers, eating tomatoes from my mom’s cute corner garden, chopping off all of my mom’s hair for a sassy + liberating look, shopping for fun hats, looking through old photos and taking new family photos.
BEFORE cancer: Life was fast-moving, life was full of love, life was GOOD.
AFTER cancer: I’ve come to the realization that it’s nearly the same as before. Life is still fast, still filled with love and still REALLY REALLY GOOD. The most profound change is that I treasure my family even more than I knew was humanly possible. And I know that anything is possible.
“With man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.” ~ Mark 10:27
A very special thank you to our dear friend Brandi Sutherland for capturing these images for our family.
They do more than show our love and my mom’s bravery, they are healing to our hearts.
Even though I’m a photographer, I’m first + foremost a daughter who was so completely swamped with emotion that I didn’t even think of doing family photos at this time. But Brandi did.
Thank you Brandi for not simply asking what you could do to help us. Thank you for telling me that you wanted to make this photo shoot happen. Thank you for clearing your schedule to fit ours. Thank you for a priceless gift.