This is one of those great stories that sometimes unfold by chance as we work on Suite HOPE. Ali Lagarde, a model represented by my friends at The Campbell Agency who lives and works in New York and only occasionally comes in to Dallas for “direct” bookings was coming home to Dallas for Christmas with her family and graciously agreed to shoot with us during her holiday for an upcoming book project we’re working on. Since we were shooting with Ali during her Christmas break I suggested she bring her mom to the shoot so they could have more time together, and I offered to photograph them together as a thank you. Ali asked if her sister Lydia could come to the shoot as well. I was thrilled, “Yes! Please do bring her as well”. Ali mentioned her sister, Lydia was a writer and it did not take me long to hatch a plan to use this beautiful family portrait, (thank you Tim Boole) and ask the talented young writer (Lydia is a senior in high school) to do her story, Lydia’s story, of her family and make it a message to others about her experience. I decided the title should be "Cancer, A Family Affair". Here are Lydia’s words:
When I first heard my mom had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I really thought it was the end of the world. My mom is the rock of my family. She keeps us all in check and is our family’s “Superwoman.” However, eventually I realized that my mom having cancer doesn’t change her. Cancer doesn’t change a person unless they let it, and with their family’s help, nothing has to change. While I didn’t know how to help my mom in any physical way, for example because of our schedules I could not go to all her appointments or support her in that way, I knew that my job was to make her life, in the emotional sense, easier. It was my job to be a more positive person, to be more understanding towards her needs, and to, with my dad’s help, create a funny, happy and loving environment at home. I think the most important part about helping a loved one with cancer is giving off an energy that will help them thrive, even through challenging and uncomfortable times. If everyone dwells on the fact that a loved one has cancer, no one would get anything done! Instead of dwelling on it, I made simple changes in my attitude and the way I lived my life. I tried to limit my complaining, because imagine what my mom has to complain about. I also tried to generally be a more helpful member of the family, whether it be around the house or by running errands. In a weird way, cancer really has made my whole family better. It has made me less selfish and more aware of those around me and the needs of those around me. It has made both of my parents grow closer, and has also made my mom and I grow closer. With a good attitude, going through a hard time can strengthen a family in amazing ways. Cancer is just one of those things that life throws at you. It does affect the whole family and sometimes can be inconvenient, annoying, or overwhelming, but overall it is something that can be overcome. I think that many people get caught up in the word cancer and scare themselves into thinking it means that everything will change or that their loved one will become a whole different person. It is important that we don’t let cancer define us, our family, or our community, but instead we define what cancer will do to our lives. We have the power to be positive individuals and to help our loved ones’ lives a little easier. We can define the way it affects us, but also in a way define how it affects our family. While our moms, dads, siblings, or friends may be fighting hard to overcome the illness, it is up to us to overcome the negative aura attached to cancer. Positivity, happiness, and support can be the key to helping them through the experience and defining the way that they see cancer. If your family member is diagnosed with any form of cancer, it is easy to feel hopeless. It is easy to think that it is impossible to help them, or to feel uncomfortable or awkward about helping them. This is not true. The most important way to help is to be positive, to be supportive, and to make their lives easier in every other sense. Although you really have no control over how the medical processes go, the rest of their experience can be made so much easier just by putting yourself in their shoes and treating them the way you think would help them overcome the situation. Cancer is a painful, uncomfortable, and confusing thing, but I think that it puts everything else into perspective. Or it did for me, at least. It made me realize how I should be living my life, and all I can contribute to make the lives of those around me easier.