Sometimes we can't make sense of the obstacles life decides to throw at us, but how we choose to tackle those obstacles tells a lot about a person. Last year I had the wonderful privilege of meeting one of the most inspiring person I have ever met. We met in a coffee shop for the first time and talked about her cancer and how she was dealing with life after cancer. We hit it off right away and I just knew that we were perfect for each other for her healing session I was going to do for her. Half way through our talk she stopped and asked me if I believed in God...her faith, even after all she had been through, never wavered.
After Leah's beautiful session took place this past November I knew I wanted to sit down and write something special about her, her life, and our experience together. The only problem with that is, I didn't want to mess it up. I want to do her story justice. There comes a lot of responsibility with sharing someones intimate story and how we came together to help her heal through art. If it wasn't for our beautiful friend Toya, I am not so sure if we would have been brought together. Toya is another amazing, inspiring women who is also a survivor and someone who has touched our lives. I will have Toya's story for you soon. Having a support system to walk through life with at every step of the process is so important. I am so thankful I was able to walk with Leah through this step. Healing. Thank you so much Leah for trusting me with your story in every aspect.
Leah's story begins on July 16, 2015. Three years today Leah was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and Braca1 with a nursing baby in her arms and a 3 year old by her side. The very best way I can think to tell this part of the story is to use the words straight from Leah. Here she goes: "I remember looking at my husband and asking why. Why did I get cancer? I was too young, my kids were too little, my baby was still nursing, I already had a brain tumor as a child (I lost my hair then too), I was a good person, I loved God, I take care of sick people. Why would God allow me to have cancer and be so sick." She went on to tell me that like most tragedies in life we don't always have an answer to these questions. What she does know is that He carried her through the sick nights, He kept her family safe and healthy, He allowed her to to meet the most incredible people through her journey and experience God sized miracles. I loved it when she said she was able to find beauty in the scars. How powerful is that? See what I mean? She is so inspiring! I am going to let her tell you the next part because it gives me chills every. single. time. "There were days I couldn't get off the floor after chemo, when I couldn't watch my kids by myself, when I couldn't hold them for 6 weeks post a 9 hour surgery (double mastectomy, axillary dissection, reconstruction, oophorectomy) when I lost everything that made me a woman---cancer stole it all...But God is still faithful!" Let us just take a moment and really digest what she just shared. Amazing! "Even now when the fear of cancer returning overwhelms me, when the hot flashes drive me crazy, or when I don't recognize myself in the mirror, I know that God is still good and He still loves me. I also know that I have an amazing husband, 2 beautiful boys, and the most supportive group of family and friends." Cancer takes so much and places so much fear, but having a strong faith and wonderful support system is so crucial. Leah's motto during breast cancer treatment was to trust God, love her family, and wear lipstick. Lipstick was her armor and gave her the courage to fight everyday. She wore her lipstick to every chemo, every appointment, and every surgery. When she became a survivor she knew she wanted an opportunity to inspire women and give them the courage and hope through cancer. That is exactly what she is doing by sharing her story and allowing me to share it through her beautiful and moving images.
I may have helped bring self love and confidence back into her life, but she truly changed my life. The greatest gift that I could give her is to show her how I and how the world sees her. When I look at her I don't see cancer, I see courage, strength, power, a warrior, and most of a woman.