Thursday, December 13, 2012

Being Brave...

There is something eerie about the way cancer survivors are portrayed.  It starts with the smiling, hat donning models that look out from rows of informational brochures at the cancer center. Touting headlines such as Lymphoma and You or End of Life Options the brochures make for macabre advertisement.

A bright-eyed woman holding hands with a loved one on the cover of  All you need to know about Colon Cancer seems to say "Look how fascinating this cancer diagnosis can be! I'm looking forward to this process - You should too!"

A stoic grandfatherly looking gentleman leans against a tree from the cover of Understanding your Prostate and retorts "I never wanted this prostate anyway."

After the diagnosis of cancer, the next images that are typically laid out for public consumption are those of  "survivors".  You know the ones - Pink hats, smiling faces, strength, strength, strength.

So here's the deal:  There is a lot that happens in the middle. And it's not all knowing smiles and pretty pink hats. 

I understand why images of smiling, happy people are chosen for "the face of cancer".  No one would pick up a brochure with Grandma breaking down and mouthing "WHY ME?"  But I also believe it is important to be honest - to be able to really prepare those who are on this path.

Cancer - and its treatment - is not pretty.  Surviving means getting down to the core of being human - with all the grit and grace that goes along with it.

This is why, on a cold day in October, my best friend and I ventured out into the woods to document "The Middle" of cancer.  At that point in time I had completed five of six chemo treatments.  I was not at my thinnest - I would lose another six pounds, require saline and blood to get through my final treatment.  And though these photos would never be used on the cover of Breast Cancer and You - they are reality.

Cancer is a brutal adversary.  But there is beauty and strength in standing up to it - and being honest.  I was here.  This is part of my story too.  I am not afraid.

 Photography is by Jennifer Borst - a most amazing and adventurous photographer whom I am lucky enough to call friend.  Thank you, sweet girl - for helping me to be brave and standing beside me through thick and thin.  Everyone should be so lucky.