The service I provide as a photographer is one that most would say is not necessary. It’s a luxury expense to many. And although it might not be necessary since my photographs aren’t directly saving lives or feeding the masses, I do feel they save precious memories and feed the soul. So necessary? Maybe not. But important, yes. Because my skill set doesn’t include anything that ALL would consider super valuable to others, I try, each year, to donate my services as a way of doing good. Not for humanity as a whole, as that is a bit too far-reaching for lil’ ol’ me, but instead for a family here and there, or a charity whose cause is something I hold close to my heart.
Last year, my mom mentioned to me how a friend from her work was going through some trying times with her family, and I was moved by their story.
After experiencing a pain that wouldn’t subside around Thanksgiving of 2011, a tumor the size of a football was discovered surrounding the kidney of Beth’s 2nd youngest son, Jared. The diagnosis was that of a rare cancer called Wilms tumor; only 500 people a year in the United States receive this diagnosis a year.
Jared, only 14 years old at the time, was one of those 500.
Patients with Wilms tumor typically respond well to chemo treatments with the goal to shrink the tumors until they are operable. So for the past year and a half, Jared has been undergoing treatment while trying to maintain a somewhat normal life with his three brothers, love for sports and being active in his church. His family has been steadfast in their commitment to getting Jared through the ups and downs. Their support net is vast, and their faith in God is strong and unyielding.
When I heard Jared’s story, I wanted to document this family of 6 so they could have some happy images to remind them of the good times during this trial of their life. Beth of course was excited at the idea for professional photos, and although her boys might not be huge fans of the camera, they put on their “good son” hats and humored me that cold day in October.
Chase, Josh, Dillon and Jared were all such pleasures to work with, and one thing was clear after spending such a small amount of time with them: They can handle whatever the world throws at them because they have one another as sources of laughter and strength.
As an update, Jared had surgery in January to remove a tumor from his lung. And a few days later, on January 17, he was declared cancer-free. It’s too soon to be labeled as being in remission, but so far, so good, and his family continues to pray that they can stay this new course. In the meantime, Jared is trying to get back into the swing of things, literally…playing baseball for his school reserve team. He is overjoyed to be back on the pitcher’s mound, and is looking forward to catching up on missed school and volunteering at a summer camp in the coming months. His mom says he is so thankful to have a 2nd chance at life, and he’s comforted knowing that though the road ahead might not be smooth at every turn, he won’t be walking it alone.
I am in awe at her and her husband’s own strength, as a mom myself now, because they rallied to keep their chins up, hands folded in prayer, and arms always open for a truly genuine hug for the boys they adore. On the Caring Bridge journal, I read a paragraph Jared’s mom wrote that really hit home:
“Cancer has been anything but pleasant but cancer has changed our lives for the better because it has reminded us ever so abruptly who is in charge, what is important and it has given us clarity. We have continued to grow as a family, expanding our knowledge, our compassion, our ability to love and our ability to accept life as it comes. We’ve learned to fight and come out stronger. We’ve learned to reach out to God and to others and as a result, have deeper more meaningful relationships. I used to believe we could shape the circumstances around us, but now I know God uses circumstances to shape us.”
So I present to you, this testosterone-heavy family… who will forever be a beacon of admirable determination, enduring love and resounding inspiration. Thank you for letting me tell your story! xo