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Cancer.

It touches all our lives. Be it friends, family, loved ones, or even ourselves. It touches us all. How we deal with that first realisation that Cancer is in our lives goes a long way to determining our journey with it.

But this is a photography blog, why am I writing about Cancer?

I run a Bump to Baby and a My First Year programme for parents with young children, this provides them with several shoots over a given timeframe.

Sue (not her real name) contacted me 18 months ago and said she would like BOTH the Bump to Baby & My First Year photo shoots. The Bump to Baby shoot consists of a maternity shoot at approx. 40 weeks, and a newborn shoot, at approx. 10 days. The My First Year comprises three shoots, newborn, 6 months and 1 year old.

During the course of the last 18 months I have met Sue & her family on a number of occasions, they had a son together, Julian (not his real name) who I have photographed in a Vintage suitcase at ten days old and under a yellow towel at six months old. Every time I have met or spoken with Sue & her family it has always been a rewarding experience. 

It was Julians first birthday yesterday.

About six weeks ago Sue contacted me for an appointment for Julians final 1 year shoot, we had the usual chit chat and exchanged pleasantries and then Sue said, “I may have to cancel at short notice though as I have Cancer”

An uneasy silence followed as I was at a loss for words, so many thoughts flying around in my head. I wanted to say something but knew that no words I could say would be of any comfort. Thankfully, Sue broke the silence and said some silly comment which I forget now, but it made me chuckle and we said our goodbyes.

As soon as I put the phone down the worry started to set in.

About her family. About Julian her son. About the photo shoot. About EVERYTHING.

Yesterday came.

It was raining. 

We were meeting at a local National Trust site to get some pictures of Julian outside in natural surroundings. I arrived a little early to gather my thoughts. Then I saw them, Sue’s father was driving and I could see that Sue was wearing a wooly hat. Was that because of the cold, or because she was losing her hair? All those images of a Cancer sufferer I had in my head were coming to the fore and I was hating myself for it. 

Sue got out of the car and she could obviously see my facial expression as she said, “Blimey Colin, I have Cancer, it’s not contagious you know!!” And that was that. All the worry and fear that had been building up the last six weeks was gone in an instant. And I knew, what ever the weather, we would get some good pictures today.

Throughout the whole shoot Sue was chirpy positive and he usual funny self. Walking back to the cars afterwards I asked her why she was so positive? Her answer bought tears to my eyes.

“If I’m going to die, I’m going to die, there is no point bringing everyone else in my life down by being sad and unhappy. I have always been a happy person, I’m going to continue being a happy person. I don’t want to die, but If I do, at least I’m going out knowing that my family and friends can remember me as someone who was smiling and happy right to the end. Life is full of challenges. This is one of those”

Looking back on yesterdays shoot and my chat with Sue afterwards I have a good feeling that everything will be ok.

If nothing else it has altered my outlook on life somewhat.

keep smiling, be happy

Best – Colin

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