When I first started out with portrait photography I didn’t need to look far for some of my first models. Luckily I had two adorable little girls living just around the corner and a family who appreciated having a photographer in the neighborhood.
This is still one of my favorite photos and I’ve promised them that we would recreate it sometime soon (a bit difficult since the older girl is now a Junior in college. Yikes).
The other day I had the honor of photographing the younger daughter, Lija’s senior session, oh so many years later.
The years between that first picture and the second haven’t been the easiest for Lija. I asked her mom for her input since I didn’t want to get any details wrong:
On December 15, 2011 Lija was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and she stated chemotherapy in January of 2012. We were lucky to find it early – but it still took its toll. Lija lost her hair after the first chemo treatments – and ended up in the hospital after the end of each batch of treatments. Through it all Lija never cried; well twice, once when she was diagnosed and once when she had mouth sores.
Thoreau Middle School organized a Make a Cut Event for her and she was one of the speakers. She was also awarded the Anthony MCCay Spirit Award – in recognition of her energy, enthusiasm and positive spirit.
Lija never let cancer own her. One day after her cancer treatments; we were driving to school, and she said that in a way she was glad she got cancer. I asked her why. She said that a girl had come up to her at school and said that Lija was her inspiration because if she could still come to school and be positive even with cancer, then this young lady could deal with the problems that she faced.
Lija continues to attend the Make The Cut events and plans to pursue a degree as physician assistant specializing in pediatric oncology.
I remember that time and how I hurt for Lija and her family as they went through the diagnosis and treatment, and I remember trying to comprehend the enduring fear that follows, even when the healthy diagnosis is given.
But I also believe that some of the beauty and strength that comes out in Lija’s pictures are the result of going through that experience and coming out strong. I wish this girl all her dreams and plans come true, and I get the feeling they will, because she will make it happen!
Yes, I feel old when I photograph past clients’ senior session, but I also feel special in the participation I’ve had in capturing memories for my lovely neighbors.