Last year I shot a passion project that showed someone through their journey with cancer, this year I wanted to show the many faces breast cancer effects. I had everyone pick a word that describes their journey and a little about their story. I'm so grateful they were to open up to me and tell me their story. Thank you for everyone who came, thank you to my DREAM team for make these beautiful people feel special. So grab some tissues and read their stories
Meet Lisa, currently going through cancer here's her word and her story
February 26, 2019, 11:30 AM, the call that forever changed my life. I was numb. "Am I going to die?" The question I needed an answer to but was afraid to ask.
Stage 3, BRCA positive, triple-negative. "What does all this mean?" Well, it meant, a bilateral mastectomy, eight rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiation.
This cannot be happening!
I decided right there and then, (well, after thetears were done) and with the help of my wonderful husband, that I will be strong. I will get through this!
I fight for my three sons and three stepchildren whom I want to be an example of strength.
I am so blessed to have such a close family, amazing dear friends, and such an incredible "work family" who all truly keep me going with love and support. I could not do this without them.
My journey is not over yet, but I will stay positive and keep smiling, knowing I will beat this.
Sure I have some days where I cry, I'm allowed! Then I wake up and start fighting again.
Each day is a gift, take nothing for granted, and LIVE, LAUGH, and LOVE!
Meet Stacy, She was my Muse last year, She rang her bell in June and one of the most beautiful people I ever met inside and out, Here's her word and story
Breast cancer awakens a victim in multiple ways. You hear the word cancer and suddenly priorities change. The little things don’t really seem that important to you anymore. You are awakened by the amount of love and support from not only your friends and family but by your nurses, doctors, and people that you maybe had one or two conversations with years ago. You are awakened by the amount of strength you have to fight even when you’re tired of fighting you still somehow find more within you. You are awakened by the inner beauty and confidence you find in yourself after losing all your hair, which is what you considered a way to identify yourself and personality. You are awakened by how many people are affected by cancer because every chair is occupied at every treatment you attend. You are awakened at your last treatment that the battle is finally over and you suddenly feel the weight lift off your shoulders.
I fight because I was awakened in all those ways. I hope that my words will: awaken the women who are too busy to go get the mammogram they’ve been putting off; awaken the women who don’t think it’s necessary to do self exams; awaken the men and women who have not been tested for the BRCA 1 or 2 gene that runs in their family; awaken everyone.
Meet Aldo, I met him 4 years ago during a Real Men Wear Pink Campaign, He has been a real man fighting for awareness of cancer and truly one of the most inspiring men I have ever met! Here's his story
It was October 2013 that our lives changed forever. My wife Nickie, 37 at the time, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. The disease was metastatic with cancer in her bones, liver and lung. It all started with a small lump in her breast and zero symptoms. After getting it checked out , the Dr thought it was isolated but Nickie demanded a Pet scan. The Dr was reluctant at first but we got the approval. To our shock and the Drs , it was not isolated but metastatic. From that moment on with several Dr opinions and many family discussions, Nickie decided to fight and that she did. From chemo, radiation, pills, shots, surgery, ER visits and more, she never gave up and was the strongest person I’ve ever known. Her specific disease had a 2 year prognosis, but Nickie fought for 5 years. She didn’t back down and always did things her way. She didn’t let cancer define her and she lived her life to the fullest she could. On October 23, 2018 she passed away at the age of 42. Heaven got the most amazing angel that day.
Meet Danielle, When I opened up and posted about this project she was one of the first people to want to be involved and she messaged me about wanting to show strength for her kids- Heres her word and story
Blessed-4 yrs ago on july 29th I was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer and I was scared to death and numb because I was mother of to amazing girls and at the wife.. and at the time I one goal was my trip to Disney with my family I was not missing during my treatments.I had 3 months of chemo and double bystemtemy and 4 months of radiation and one more surgery. My doctors at the cancer center of Lehigh Valley hospital cancer center were amazing and at the age 41 I am still in remission. And doing my best to a the best single mom I can be with my 2 chance at life.. personally I miss looking in mirror and miss feeling beautiful about my body and smiling (between the treatments and cancer they took my teeth and well it's hard thing to deal with at times)but I am a survivor and warrior...knowing what I know now about 2nd chance of life I take one day at a time and pray one day I will find true love
Meet Jeneane, my very last sign up but she showed up and showed so much strength
My story behind on my 40 the birthday when I was given that dreaded"it's time for your first mammogram. This is one test I'm glad I didn't put off. They found two tumors both cancerous. I had a bilateral mastectomy on 9/27/2010 with reconstruction. After several months of chemotherapy I thought I was in the clear. Fast forward five years exactly. I noticed a lump under my arm. I went back to the surgeon only to hear those dreaded words... It was back. Later I found the entire breast was actually filled with microscopic pools of cancer cells. 4 months of chemo, then two surgeries, another year of chemo and then 26 rounds of radiation and I'm in remission again. Hopefully for good this time!
These cuties were there to support their mommy, they loved being behind the scenes and helping all day long
Elizabeth didn't have a paragraph but she said that her mommy was so strong and all the ladies there was so beautiful, I wanted to show that kids are effected too
This is Laura, I met her many years ago, I would call her the best volunteer around. Always supporting the cause but also a survivor. One of the sweetest people you will ever meet
Live- The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer I decided to LIVE. Live the moments of my life to the fullest, however many of them are left. Live with a smile. Live with kindness. And most of all, LIVE HAPPY.
This is Lauren, I met her earlier this year for another shoot and she was so beautiful and fun, when I posted about this passion project she messaged me right away and wanted to be involved. It was so lovely that someone so young cares so much.
For as long as I can remember, I was always curious as to what my “grandma in the sky” would have been like. She passed away on my birthday, but 6 years before I was born. After a tough battle, breast cancer got the best of her. I pray that we find a cure so no other child has to ever be curious about what there grandmother would have been like.
This is LizBeth, She showed up so happy and so much support I have seen all over facebook for her. You could tell clearly she has the biggest heart.
Embrace- I have fought the fight!! I was embraced by so many people....community, family, friends, physicians and hospital staff. I also embraced myself to be positive and strong. Along with I believe I have embraced others in their fight. Never Give Up!!!
This is Fernanda, She was a co-worker of mine and when we got together we spent our days laughing. She is one of those people even if you met her once, you'd miss her. Her story is truly amazing.
Shattered- It was a typical Sunday night, Tom and I were enjoying some much needed down time with our children, Leo and Milania. Things had been so chaotic with finishing house renovations, putting our house on the market, looking for a new home, work, school and family life. We were trying to soak up as much time as we could before becoming a family of five. Milania climbed up on my lap to snuggle and in the process, she accidentally elbowed me in the chest, later that evening… I found a lump.
I went to the doctor the next day for a typical pregnancy follow-up at thirty-three weeks. She said not to worry, it was just a swollen milk duct and it happens to many women. That night I couldn’t sleep and called the doctor in the morning to ask her for a referral. I went to a specialist for an ultrasound and the doctor confirmed that it was a tiny infection. Tom and I were so relieved. I took the seven day course of antibiotics and the lump remained. I returned to the specialist and she gave me two options, give birth and the infection would clear on its own or have the lump removed. I told her to sharpen her scalpel. Upon removing the lump, she said, “I see cancer every day and this is not cancer.” She said she was going to send out the biopsy as a precaution. I didn’t give that appointment much thought aside from the discomfort of stitches. A few days later on my drive home from work, I contemplated what area of nursing I wanted to pursue. That’s when I decided I wanted to work in children’s oncology. I thought what was chemo like? What does a person with cancer endure? How would I feel if I had cancer?
The following day I got a call from the doctor, she said “I’m really sorry but your biopsy came back and I’m shocked. I don’t know how else to tell you this but you have breast cancer.” I stood paralyzed in the corner of my son’s bedroom and for a brief moment, time stood still. I didn’t know how to process what I had heard, I lost my uncle and grandfather to cancer and was certain I had received my death sentence. I wrapped my arms around my abdomen and began sobbing. My husband heard my cries and rushed upstairs, he asked me “was something wrong or was I in labor?” I said the specialist called and I have cancer. The look on his face was the same way I had felt, completely shattered. In fact, when you tell your family and friends, they all have the same look and it feels as if you’re reliving this heart-breaking moment over and over again. Tom hugged me and reassured me we would be okay. The next two weeks were a blur. In while I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I couldn’t wait for our family to meet our second daughter.
In late April we welcomed Giavana, her name means God is gracious. We got to enjoy her first few weeks in a state of blissful chaos. I had my port surgery, we sold our house and moved in with my in-laws who were so gracious to let us stay with them till settlement on our new home. When she was just six weeks old, I start chemo. June 6th was one of the most emotional days to date, not because of what would happen to me, but because I could no longer feed my daughter the way I would have liked or care for my other two children the way I had planned. My husband and I walked hand in hand to my first chemo treatment which was over nine hours long. I don’t remember much after the Benadryl but the days following were absolutely horrific. They warned me that the side effects of chemo were cumulative and by cycle four I could barely stand the excruciating pain. My father took me to the remaining five treatments and numerous surgeries. I always tried my best to smile and be strong around my parents but truthfully know they were the brave ones quietly praying over me as they watched me suffer.
The past two years have been filled with painful trials and heartache. Through it all, I thank God for allowing me a second chance at life and sustaining us while we were at our lowest points. I am frequently reminded of His grace and provision, often in circumstances that seem impossible. I would like to thank our families and friends for all of their support and giving us numerous reasons to remain strong in our fight. We count ourselves fortunate to have each and every one of you in our lives.
Meet Robin, She came with her friend Lisa and wanted to support her but was also one of the most loving people all day.
My story, or should I say chapter, because my story is not over yet…. It all started out with my mammogram August 2016. I remember complaining to my friend the morning before I had to go for my yearly mammo – about how much I hated that test, and I even said, “it was such a pain to have to get it done.” I have gone for my mammogram each year since I was 35 and many of those times, I had to follow-up with an ultrasound because they weren’t sure due to density of my breasts. They called me two days later telling me that I needed to come in for an ultra-sound. I thought to myself, “here we go again”. This time, during the procedure, they were starting to say words like “suspicious”, “concerning” which they have never done before, and told me I needed to have a biopsy for an area of concern. I went in for the biopsy – which hurt like hell! They had to send out the sample and we made an appointment a week later to hear the news. September 1, 2016 the horror movie started to play. The doctor and nurses were at the table, my husband and I on the other side. He started by confirming the worst. He said, “that he had the test results, was sorry to say Robin you do have cancer” …. That was all I heard the rest of the conversation was a blur. Thank God my husband was there to hear what was being said and ask the right questions.
Since that day, I have been through so much. I had to get a port put in, they started chemotherapy in November 2016. Thanksgiving morning, I began to loose my hair in the shower. Two days later, my husband shaved my head which was extremely difficult. I cried and cried when it started to come out. I was given 16 rounds of chemo treatments and finished up in April 2017. I then got tattoos and mapping to start radiation. I had to be re-tattooed because they could not line up the markings accurately. I received a total of 35 treatments. My treatments were long and tiring. I had to hold my breath during the session because my tumor was under my breast, but over my heart. Which made me have thirty to forty minutes on the cold, lonely table. During this period, I also had countless doctor visits, cat scans, pet scans, blood work. I was pricked and prodded, sore, sick, and very weak. My immune system started to get low so I could not even allow friends and family members to visit. It was extremely difficult for all my love ones watching me go through this.
Since that horrible day, I have turned my diagnosis around to be a positive thing. I never let the cancer define me, rather I wanted to define it. I have had the privilege of sharing my story publicly to a woman’s group, I became a member of 2 cancer related organizations – Patients, Family Advocacy Council (P.F.A.C) through LVHN and joined the board of The Chemo Bag. I also, took part as a patient actress in a what-to-expect video for Lehigh Valley Hospital Radiation Center, which will be released in a few months. I am now three years post cancer diagnosis. My doctors can’t say that I am cancer free yet, but they can say there is no evidence of cancer in my body. I will continue to share my story and help others stay strong and fight.
Throughout my journey there were many sayings I began to embed into my daily life and ones that I really believe… that there is strength in numbers, nobody should have to fight this alone. You are stronger than you know, and I got this! Everyone was so supportive. I could not have stayed so positive without them supporting me and giving me the inspiration to move on. They all said I was amazing and so inspiring.
These stories were so amazing and touching, but I also wanted to thank my team who helped make this day possible
Gina Pede, One of my best friends spent her time doing hair for all the ladies to make them feel glamorous. She is truly a girl's girl. Full of love and big hair and laughter. She's AMAZING at all things hair, If you're looking for amazing hair, braids, updos, wedding looks, SHE'S YOUR GIRL. Follow her at @GinaPede on Instagram to see her work and book your appt
Ingrid, I met her years ago and we talked about collaboration forever, She is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. SO many of the ladies she did started crying or were overwhelmed when I took their pictures. They said I haven't felt this beautiful in a long time. This particular beauty in the picture was so grateful that she gave her eyebrows. She does amazing glam makeup and natural. She also does hair and is a fashion influencer. Reach out to her for your beauty needs. Follow her on instagram for your make up needs @ingypamua
This is Tim of Steel Pixel Videography, he's been a good friend of mine and one of my favorite people to partner with for any wedding or event. Truly a sweet person and loves what he does. If you're looking for video for any event, corporate or wedding, he's your guy. Follow him at @SteelPixel
This is Meghan, She was my assistant and my behind the scenes girl, I called her my hype girl for this passion project. Meghan is also an AMAZING photographer, I call her my photography bestie and she is truly a baby whisperer. She helped everyone all day long and I loved having her amazing energy and love there to share. Check out her amazing work https://meghanmariephotos.com
That's me in the middle, behind the scenes taken I loved so much about this passion project. I just wanted to share how important it is to bring Bring Breast Cancer awareness to the surface. Its so easy to donate money to charities but to know the story, the faces, the different people effected will help us one day get closer to a cure. Reach out to your local groups that help cancer patients, that help survivors, that raise awareness, that bring love and light to all those effected.
Thank you so much for reading my passion project. Hopefully this gave you some insight on this matter as we continue to fight for a cure.