My newest undertaking is one that I hope becomes on of my most powerful accomplishments. Inspired by Marry Ann’s photography in the book Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits and the unique and unforgettable experiences of an unexpected summer job, I have decided to create a tribute to the beauty and strength of women touched by breast cancer.
I am just now setting out on this journey, hoping to have a completed product by May 2009, and for this to blossom from my idea to a concrete reality I need your help! I will need the help of many so I am starting here to attempt to reach my clients as well as some stray blog readers. I intend to explain my inspiration and reasoning behind why I have choosen to begin this project as well as to share with you what I intend to create.
So I will start with the INSPIRATION… the WHY?
This past summer, home from college and without a job, I grew quite bored and approached my mother with the plea to find me a job, any job, for the summer. (She works in the human resources department at the local hospital, and I had worn out the classified ads and grown tired of hearing “We don’t hire for temporary summer positions”).
The answer to my boredom and job need came in an unexpected way? I would be driving a golf cart around the parking lot of the cancer center at the local hospital while they did construction. Not really the next career move I saw myself making, but I though “Hey, I’ll be outside (which was great until it rained), it will be low stress and it will get me out of the house for a bit.”
So I accepted the job, and began shuttling cancer patients to and from their cars in a nearby lot for six hours a day. Needless to say I did not foresee this job having much of an impact on me, but you never guess where you will find the greatest inspiration or who will touch your life at the most unexpected time.
I didn’t know what to expect having never been around many sick people, let alone anyone with cancer. Over the first couple days, I wrestled with how to act and treat the patients. Do I help them in the cart? Do I carry their things? I didn’t want my actions to come across offensive, whether that offence came from me assuming they could not do it themselves or from me being rude and not offering my help. This internal struggle all stemed from the fact that I had not interacted with ill patients before now.
It didn’t take long for me to look past the “patient” and see the person. And these were wonderful people. Some regulars whom I knew by name and even car in just a week or so and some one timers whom I may have seen only once. The “regulars” touched my life the most. As I said, I had never known anyone with cancer, so I expected to see sick, defeated patients who were going through the motions of maintaining life with this death sentence. This is not what I encountered. Cancer was not a death sentence to these people, to some it was just a minor speedbump that meant pausing from their normal retien to receive treatment, and then returning to the rutein a few hours later. These people were full of life and love and happiness, and I had the privilege to brighten their day for just a moment with a fun and unexpected ride and more importantly a loving human interaction.
Even working their for only the few weeks I did, I was overjoyed to notice an improvement in the health of many of my “regulars.” These were not dying patients, they were living people who were fighting for their lives and winning. Sadly I also watched some of my “regulars” get worse, as those who originally declined my rides, perfectly capable of walking the 100 feet to the door, now relied on my cart to make the treck to the distant entrance.
Two of my most memorable riders were Nancy and Joe, two of the sweetest individuals God has placed on this planet, and the couple to whom I had the most instant connection, as my aunt and uncle are also named Nancy and Joe. Nancy was the most grateful to see me arrive outside her car on the first day. And she inspired me on my last day of work when she came in for what I thought was her weekly radiation therapy. (I never asked many questions about why the patients were here, many told me, but I never probed beyond what they offered, so for most I was unsure what type of cancer they had or even how bad it was).
On Nancy’s ride back to the lot, I informed her that that day would be my last, as I would be going back to college the next week and they would be discontinuing the service now that the parking lot had reopened. We exchanged the expected, “it was nice to meet you” and she informed me that she had been in for a checkup since she was leaving on a cruse to Alaska next week. I told her to have a great time and hung my keys up, putting an end to my career as a golf cart driver.
It was Nancy’s trip that touched me that day. Her strength and the strength of all those I met in my time there was something miraculous and beautiful and something I felt I needed to share with others. She was doing more with cancer than I had every done without it. I would be lucky to see the beauty of Alaska in my lifetime.
Photography is my passion and my gift and thus I knew that I could have the most powerful impact by utilizing that skill to show, not tell, the world of the beautiful strength of those touched by cancer. And thus, the Beautiful Strength project was born.
So now you are probably curious about the WHAT? (At least I hope you are)
It is my goal to create a book that illustrates the beauty and strength of women touched by breast cancer, those fighting it now and those who have already won the battle. This book will contain a beautiful and illustrative individual portrait of each women. The image will showcase both her beauty and strength and hopefully capture a bit of what she wants you to see, the story she wants to tell. Along with this I will let these women do just that, tell their story.
So now I need your HELP.
Dress Designers/Boutique/Department Stores: My goal is to fit these women with beautifully eligant evening gowns for their images. Giving them the chance to shine in a beautiful gown that makes them feel like a movie star.
Make-up / Hair Stylists: Again to showcase each woman’s natural beauty and give her an experience she will not forget and the pampering she deserves.
Studio Locations: My resourses limit me to the Warrensburg area, and I would love to give more women the opportunity to be involved and share their story in this book, so if you are a studio owner willing to open up your studio for this project to come to your area for a shoot I will travel anywhere!
Breast Cancer Patients! Most importantly I need women willing to take part in this project and share their story.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE A PART OF THE “BEAUTIFUL STRENGTH” PROJECT PLEASE E-MAIL ME AT SARAHJANEPHOTOS@AOL.COM.
I am still working out all the details of the project, but I hope to donate a percentage of the proceeds made from the sale of the book to the Susan G. Koman breast cancer foundation, and I also hope to be able to provide each participant with a free copy of the finished book as well.
I can’t wait to get started and I thank you all in advance for your help and support.