October 1, 2017, Two Years after Surgery
Although Beth and I had stayed in communication over the past two years, I was surprised and moved by how much I felt like I knew her when I came to scout out her new home. The connection was one of an old and deep friendship as opposed to someone I had simply photographed a few times. Her commitment to the project, through open communications and fearless collaboration, is a rare experience.
I asked many questions, as I did before the prior shoots, but the questions were more targeted now. Drawing from her answers, I wanted to depict the joy, relief, balance, and optimism she expressed. But this was no “Disney” ending; she is not “cured” and will need to continue to monitor her health for the possibility of relapse. Fear and anxiety are still present. Her relationship with her immediate family was complex as well, but their support and love were paramount.
Shooting the third day was quite different, as I had the earlier images to consider. I wanted the palette to be consistent, but also to differ between days. I wanted to show the changes she made from before and after, such as the warmth, color, and decoration of her new home—a stark contrast to the old one.
I would love to see this project serve a greater audience, to create more understanding around the journey and to help people with breast cancer or any serious illness know better what to expect and how to navigate such a complex and fearful event. Beth’s transformation to a life she loves more and her strikingly positive outlook were unexpected results.
“Is it fair to say that breast cancer was one of the best things to happen to me?
“Aside from two months of sheer hell, confusion, pain, and being at my absolute most desperate from a health standpoint, I can honestly say I’ve never felt better and more thankful for what I have accomplished.
“Last year, I was still healing mentally, physically, and emotionally. I had a few bumps in the road trying to get back on my feet and back to work. Now, two years later, things have worked out for the better in nearly every aspect of my life. I have a new home, a good job, a good school for our daughter, a closer relationship with my husband. Hopefully, I have been a source of inspiration to my friends and extended family. I feel as if I have arrived. The journey doesn't end here, but I have climbed a huge mountain with a caravan of assistance, support, love, and laughter.
“I think of those images you took in my old house, of my anesthetized state of mind and inability to make sense of anything. My new home encompasses so much of my past and how I rearranged it to convey the balance I’ve found. The energy is so finished here—so different from the empty shell of a home after my surgery."
Click below the text on the right to see the final day of images.