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an ovarian cancer survivor. in her own words

meet hallie.

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and here’s hallie in her owns words…(part of a portrait project i am doing on the amazing souls i’ve crossed paths with during this ongoing journey with cancer. completely in their own words added to the images of their choice from our mini session together.)

One of the hardest things about going through cancer, besides facing the possibility of death, was all losing control of what was happening to me. During cancer treatment, I was swept along through a current of doctor visits, agonizing side effects from chemo, scans, waiting for results, surgery, scars, hair loss, as I just held on tight and tried to stay afloat.

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After standard treatment was over, and I was declared cancer-free last June, I found myself in strange new territory…and forever changed from this experience. Before I had cancer, when I would hear about someone in remission after treatment, I just assumed that they returned to their life…grateful to be alive and ready to move forward. For me, this has not been the case. While I feel an intense amount of gratitude for each day, each moment with my children, each sunset, the unwavering love and support from family and friends, the looming fear of recurrence can sometimes be paralyzing.

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During the past ten months since treatment ended, I have been feeling my way along, not charging forward. My days consist of a series of baby steps to slowly reclaim my life. Along the way, I have been given so many gifts, large and small. I have found an entire community of cancer survivors, who are now among my dearest friends. I have learned to accept my physical body, even with extra weight, scars, missing parts, and crazy curls growing on my head. This body has such resilience! Such an amazing capacity for healing! After battling cancer, I am able to find contentment and joy in such simple things. I savor life, even the messy stuff. I have learned to tune into my own needs more than I ever did before.

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I take naps. I drink prosecco. I hike the in mountains near my home. I snuggle with my kids and scratch their backs…when I should be doing laundry. I write love notes to my husband. I do all these things, and realize that none of us have much control over what is happening to us, cancer or not. What we do have control over is our ability to treat ourselves with love and compassion, which then radiates through us to touch others.

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if you know a cancer survivor who would like to do a photo session and write about their story please contact me. a high quality 5×7 professional print of each photo selected for the blog will be provided to the participant at no cost. (additional prints can be purchased from the gallery provided.)

Marlene and Cal Bilger - March 17, 2014 - 5:04 pm

Hallie. You are exactly why Jodi created Jodi’s Race. How proud she would be of you and what you learned from this devastating experience. Keep being the lovely person you are inside and out. See you in June. Mar and Cal Bilger
Jodi’s Dad and stepmom.

italy….{PISA and FLORENCE}

the problem with traveling to italy is that one trip makes you crave the next…and the next and the next. it’s like an addiction. i honestly hadn’t anticipated that aspect of living out my dream.

while creating these collages my heart raced and each image began to evoke powerful memories and lots of endorphins…like a rush of caffeine is zipping through my veins at record speed. this morning as i type i am getting to do what photographers get to do often…taste life twice. {and boy does it taste good!} this time in review my heart is aching for more. i want to travel again and again to this magical land where my grandparents were born. where my family and my heritage began.

i’m not waiting to see if ovarian cancer returns….i’m starting up my ‘italy jar’ savings again today.

PISA

PISA

FLORENCE

FLORENCE

MY SWEET FRIEND DIANA

MY SWEET FRIEND DIANA

NIGHT TIME IN FLORENCE

NIGHT TIME IN FLORENCE

FLORENCE ART

FLORENCE ART

THE DUOMO VIEW FROM THE BAPTISTRY

THE DUOMO VIEW FROM THE BAPTISTRY

VESPA RIDE THROUGH TUSCANY

VESPA RIDE THROUGH TUSCANY

are ya havin’ any fun?….whatcha getting outta livin…? {tony bennett}

“are you having any fun?” you tube it… and play it loudly while you are reading this post!

i LOVE that song…and all it’s reminders that “you ain’t gonna live forever–before you’re old and gray and still ok have yourself a little fun!”

we listen to that song loudly and often.

so this weekend we kept on our jammies (and the boys grabbed a ski hat…why not right?) and we “had ourselves a little fun!” i busted out the watercolors i used circa 1992 in my art classes at penn state and made some new memories with them. see you don’t have to go anywhere fancy to ‘have yourself a little FUN…’

so i challenge you…go have some fun! and please know that i am a lifestyle photographer….i’d love to come and capture your family enjoying time together!

feb painting 2-14 web

feb painting 2-14 web1

bucket list….{my italian adventure part 1 of 4}

30 euro bellinis'--hell yeah!

30 euro bellinis’–hell yeah!


 
anyone who knows me knows that ITALY  has been on my bucket list for many many years now.  and it took surviving ovarian cancer (and a generous check from my mom and dad) to finally push me to go.   it’s been 3 months since i returned from my 10 day adventure there and it’s now just settling in that i actually did it.  a warmth washes over me when i think of it.  and when i look back at the photos…my heart races hand-in-hand with my mind.  it really did happen didn’t it?  it wasn’t just a dream.  and it was absolutely perfect.

photography helps me to taste life twice.  these photos remind me of the textures, colors, tastes and smells of my italian adventure.  and to daydream about another trip down the line.  hopefully sooner than later.  see the thing about an italy addiction is that you can never satiate it.  you constantly want more.  you dream of making more memories and exploring new places.

dreams keep us afloat.  they surround us with hope and cushion the reality of life.  i remember sitting in a chemo room with my sister as the IV pumped into my veins….dreamily surrounding my reality.  my sister put a photo of vernazza in cinque terre on my iPad screen saver.  the beautiful palette of colors from that photo taunted me and filled me with hope and light to get through some of my darkest and hardest days.

i took so many photos that it’s impossible to add my favs to just one blog post…so i am breaking it into four different posts….just in an attempt to capture it all and properly document it…as well as  to remind myself that dreams really do come true. and that i should never put dreams on the back burner like i did before.  life is happening NOW.  there aren’t any dress rehearsals!

the italian adventure crew.

the italian adventure crew.

train from milan to santa margarita (cinque terre)

train from milan to santa margarita (cinque terre)


the announcement of the trains arriving and departing in italian made my heart swell with excitement!

the sound of the trains arriving and departing in italian made my heart swell with excitement!

 

i asked the travel agent to book us in the best hotel we could afford as this was my first taste of italy.  and the hotel grande miramare did not disappoint!

i asked the travel agent to book us in the best hotel we could afford as this was my first taste of italy. and the hotel grande miramare did not disappoint!

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my sister and a friend were anxiously awaiting our arrival in santa margarita and we celebrated on the lovely terrace of the hotel.

my sister and a friend were anxiously awaiting our arrival in santa margarita and we celebrated on the lovely terrace of the hotel.

jet lag and all it was time to celebrate a dream come true.

jet lag and all it was time to celebrate a dream come true.

sisters.

sisters.

dipping my toes in the ligurian sea.  pure bliss.

dipping my toes in the ligurian sea. pure bliss.

a lovely rainstorm greeted us on our first night on the town.  it was a cool and glorious night.  a perfect gift as i adore rain.

a lovely rainstorm greeted us on our first night on the town. it was a cool and glorious night. a perfect gift as i adore rain.

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a well deserved toast.

a well deserved toast.

and lots of additional toasts at the hotel bar...which we closed out just about every night.

and lots of additional toasts at the hotel bar…which we closed out just about every night.

taken from the balcony of my room.  what a view and first impression of italy.

taken from the balcony of my room. what a view and first impression of italy.

our walk to portofino.  not the safest walk but certainly one of the most memorable from our trip

our walk to portofino. not the safest walk but certainly one of the most memorable from our trip

our walk to portofino.  not the safest walk but certainly one of the most memorable from our trip.

our walk to portofino. not the safest walk but certainly one of the most memorable from our trip.

and we are off...

and we are off…

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a new friend joins the group.  and our lives.

a new friend joins the group. and our lives.

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lovely portofino.

lovely portofino.

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our trip was at the end of october so not a lot of boats were out...but it was still so beautiful to see the ones we did.

our trip was at the end of october so not a lot of boats were out…but it was still so beautiful to see the ones we did.


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besties.

besties.

lunch by the sea.

lunch by the sea.

part 2/next stop–cinque terre.

a family affair…{littleton family photographer}

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it was divine intervention…i offered a gift certificate to our church for family portraits with all the bells and whistles for our annual auction. when i found out who the family was that won it i knew it was going to be more of a gift to me than to them. 1.5 hours together meandering, chatting and looking for magical afternoon light–and just like that–we were friends. we clicked immediately and our session was fab.

i do pride myself on making our time together fun and memorable. so i plan to move the location around so that we can have time to chat and get to know one another. heck sometimes we even have enough time to learn what makes us ‘tick’. when that happens it’s even better.

portrait artist are a dime a dozen and so many of us are truly talented with the camera. but having that is only part of the magic that photography provides. i am a story teller and a relationship-capturer rather than just someone to takes photos. i create images and memories that result from a special time of being together.

tick tick. both nancy and i knew we understood one another and within our smiles we knew a friendship was blossoming!

nancy is the director of music at our church and immensely talented. heck so is the whole family. and the bond they share is enlightening and inspiring. the smiles were never forced and the relationship between these guys was so obvious. it inspired me by giving me a glimpse of what’s to come with my boys. and i hope that we too will share a bond like this and as time passes and that our laughs will be this deeply connected and joyful.

i hope you can see the light that filters through this family via these images just like i do.

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