My program called Images of Strength and Hope is starting to grow and serve more families who have a child who is struggling with, or has struggled with a chronic or terminal illness! These families each have their story written and receive a photo session which chronicles their journey, highlights their courage, and reflects their love for each other. The strength and hope that these families share is inspirational and encouraging.
In late August, I had the privilege to spend time with a family whose 14 year old daughter not only displayed incredible courage, but despite all of the challenges she faces, truly lives with no limits! She is a survivor of retinoblastoma (eye cancer). Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that usually develops in early childhood, typically before the age of 5. This form of cancer develops in the retina, which is the specialized light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that detects light and color. She also has a genetic mutation that doubles her odds of getting another cancer. Because of this, she and her family live each day to the fullest and treasure every moment, every milestone.
When she was 4 years old it was photographs which actually helped to identify signs of this cancer in her. When the light from a camera shines into the eye, a white color in the center circle of the pupil will appear. Her parents made the painstaking decision to have both of her eyes removed and she underwent intense cancer treatment.
Her mom will be the first to tell you that they were in agony over the loss that their daughter now faced as just a little girl and the feelings of guilt that often challenged them. However, since that time and as she has grown into an a 14 year old young woman, they only see the possibilities that are before her. They have never allowed cancer or blindness to deter her from living the fullest life possible nor from being all God has designed her to be.
Although she will never see with her eyes, she sees with her hands, heart, mind, ears, and nose. So many of her senses and gifts are so much more than the physical loss of her vision. Her blindness does not limit her, it does not prevent her from accomplishing things, but has rather given her unique ways of doing things. She uses a wire for running, she cooks dinner for her family, she is on swim team, she is an avid Girl Scout, and even participates on Chess team. She uses her smartphone like every other teenager and explores her subjects in high school using a computer with braille. Even more importantly, she has an unbiased view of people. For this, she has so many lessons to teach us! She does not judge others based on their physical appearance, beliefs, or status. She sees everyone as simply a person going about life in her or his own unique way.
Is it sometimes painful for her parents to see her in the context of her peers who have their vision and will be getting their driver’s licenses in a few years? Yes and no! When those moments arise, they make a concerted effort to focus on her strengths, her limitless ambition, her joy in relishing everything that she does. This has so much more value than choosing to focus on what the world considers as “normal” or as “accomplished.” In the light that cancer could rear its ugly head again at some point in her life, her parents rejoice that their daughter has reached so many milestones. She has taken the bus to school as a kindergartner. She triumphed through middle school, and now is in the thick of high school! They never want to limit her experiences for fear of her getting hurt, but rather they show her that the possibilities are endless for her. She simply needs to trust in the path that God has before her and that he will faithfully see her through.
During our time together, she did the zip line with her two younger brothers, she laughed, she texted on her smartphone, and loved being in the beautiful nature that surrounded us. The intimate love they have for each other seemed to be present in each photo. I feel so privileged to have been able to capture that with my lens.
This family teaches us so much about the sanctity of each moment that we have been given in this life. Even more so, they teach us that the standards of this world are truly meaningless. We do not have to live be these things, but rather see what we have been given as truly gifts which allow each of us to live life to its fullest in a unique way.
Do you know of a family who has a story they would like to share with others or would like to be blessed with a storytelling photo session? Contact me at www.amgfotos.com today!