A year and a half ago, we photographed a wedding of a truly amazing couple that are so dedicated to each other. It was a joy to watch their family and friends celebrate and share in their love.
A few months later, this bride was met with news that was difficult. She was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was a newlywed, just months away from finishing post secondary school, and she was taken down with the fight of her life. At the start of her treatments, she came in for nursing school grad portraits with her hair. Right after this image was taken, she cut off her beautiful hair.
Over the course of the next year, Kari Anne headed to Edmonton for treatments and testing. Every time I saw her, the brilliant smile remained on her face. As she sat in the hospital receiving her chemo, she would keep her friends updated on facebook with messages of strength and positive encouragement. She did this – it wasn’t the other way around, it was her posting to all of us a reminder to stay healthy, be strong and take care of our bodies. When she was hospitalized, she took up crocheting and posted the results of her hospital stay. It was amazing for me to watch. If I went through that, I would have felt cut off at the knees, I would have been negative and asking why me? But this woman, she was a fighter and went into the ring with her hands held high.
Fighting cancer comes with an expensive bill – it’s hotel stays in the city, trips to and from the city, days missed from work. Kari graduated from nursing school but couldn’t get a job because of her health. The community held several fundraisers to help this young couple out, my son included. He held a bake sale and raised $600 for her. She took that money to the Cross Cancer Institute and donated it to the nurses on the ward where she received her chemo to purchase electric blankets and other items for patient comfort during long hours of chemo infusions. She donated it in my son’s name. To read more on this story, check out page four in this edition of the Vermilion Voice
In October, Kari Anne received a clean bill of health. For the next three years, she has to return every three months for testing that she described as “icky”. As I was working on images for our Festival of Tree entry, I asked Kari to come in and pose for me. She embodies the very word “hope”, she is a living example of a fighter and kept her faith in herself through this trial. She simply amazes me and when I feel like my day is bad, I just have to think of that smile to turn it around.
Together, we created this image as a reminder to her of her trial – of where she was, what she went through, and how much stronger she is now on the other side of that trial. We chose not to use the term “survivor” because to me, that makes it sound like she was a victim. This girl is so not a victim. She is a fighter, a warrior and shows a strength that few people possess at such a young age. Right beside her through it all was her family and husband helping her to keep her faith and hope.
This image shows the face of cancer, but this image shows even more, it shows what hope can do in life. This image shows Kari the Conqueror.