Part two - My own family photos whilst having cancer treatment

The Reason…

People have family photos taken for lots of different reasons. Some simply just want professional photos for their walls. Some want to document the age of their children and their development. I have personally had professional photos taken for both those reasons. But this time it was different.

Three days after moving back home to Arawata, I went into surgery to get my breast removed and a whole stack of lymph nodes. There was no time to think, just time to plough through what needed to be done.

Once I was home and the cancer was removed, it wasn’t the feeling I suspected. Instead of being elated that I was now cancer free, I was in despair with the thought that it would come back and it would become a terminal diagnosis.

I spent many hard days with the thoughts that I might not be here to help my family navigate the place I have taken them to. Maybe I wouldn’t have enough time to show them all the things I had loved doing growing up. My children are young, what if they grew up in this house and had no recollection of me being with them here? It was hard, it was real, but that really is the reality of a serious cancer diagnosis.

So I needed a plan to make sure that my children did have memories of me here. I reached out to our family photographer Bec and told her exactly why I needed to hire her to come out to our property and capture some memories for us.

Being the caring, humble beautiful soul she is, she offered to come out and shoot us for free. Travelling 1.5 hours to our home, spending a few hours with us and gifting us with the most incredible images.

A gift to my girls…

I had just started radiation treatment. I had a film all over my chest with lines drawn all over it. My hair had just started growing back. When you have lost it because of chemo, it grows back soft and fluffy and grey until the real hair starts to come through. Thank fully it is no longer grey! I looked like death, but this was going to be a gift to my girls - nothing else mattered.

Bec documented everything we loved doing here as a family. We spent time in each bed room. Char loves reading to us, so we did that. Holly loves her horsey song, so she captured that for us too. We also chose to make the session about documenting my fight. So we took some ‘mastectomy’ images as well. I wanted the girls to remember that yes times were hard, but they were also filled with love and light.

Campbell our fur baby was included and so was the family pony Al. I was lucky to grow up with horses when I was younger, Holly loves horses as much as I do, teaching her to ride fills me with so much joy.

The fight continues…

When I first wrote part one about my diagnosis, I had intended to follow up with Part two the following week. However only a few days later, I found yet again another lump. My suspicions were confirmed, the cancer had returned in my lymph nodes right next to where it originally was. Again waiting for the tests to see if I was terminal was excruciating. But thankfully for now, I’m not. I had more surgery to remove it and am now on 6mths worth of oral chemo.

The Reasons are underlined in your legacy…

The main reason I wanted to share this with you is this…

None of us know what is around the corner. Each day we wake up without sickness or dread, is an absolute blessing. Something I have to remind myself everyday — we are all dying. Some of us will go before they should. Some of us will live on to be 100 and pass in their sleep. But most of us wont. Don’t wait until you receive some news that you have a terminal illness to consider this… how do you want your children to remember you? What have you put into place to ensure your children will remember you? Do us adults like being in photos - not really. Especially not when you don’t think you look your best. But the images are not about that thought. They are a gift to your children. So they will have images to remember you by and take them straight back to those times you sang to them, read with them, cuddled and kissed them. When they begin to forget you, those photos will ensure they wont.

When my Dad died, I remember thinking - what should I take? My dad was a hunter, a gun was the only thing I could think of - but what was I going to do with that! Then I found a photo in his top draw. It was an image of him and I on the beach. I had my eyes closed because I was embarrassed because I had my undies on and didn’t want my photo taken. I had forgotten that moment, until I saw the photo. I was 7 when that photo was taken. I then remembered the entire day and how much fun it was. So what did I take - I took the photos, nothing else, because nothing else could help me remember those moments.

Don’t wait until it is too late, get in that frame Mum and Dad. Gift your kids images of you both with them. I promise you when you are gone, they will be the most precious things they own.

Thank you isn’t really enough for the gift that Bec gave us. She is so incredibly talented and is an absolute beautiful human. You can find her work here…

Love Mel x