The “C” Word

January 5th, 2012

The “C” word — Cancer.

It shouldn’t exist, yet it does.

The paper did a follow up story last month about a 16-year-old girl battling cancer. Only months before I was assigned to photograph another student athlete with cancer. That day I was prepared for the worst and was instead met by a bubbly 17-year-old girl.

I guess in my subconscious mind I thought this assignment would be similar. I thought I would be greeted by the same type of teenager. Honestly, I guess I was too preoccupied with my own life to fully understand or anticipate what I’d walking into that particular Friday. It was immediately apparent why this family wanted to share one final story. The end, unfortunately, was very near.

A couple weeks before, during Thanksgiving, she and her mother drove to Nebraska to see family. She turned to her mother and asked if they were making a goodbye trip. I cannot imagine, nor do I want to imagine, how I would react to such a conversation. They were going to say goodbye and that she understood.

An assignment like this puts life, family and friendships into perspective. They’re all precious. Life can be unfair. Circumstances can question faith and spark anger, sorrow and sympathy. Nothing, I’ve learned, should never be taken for granted. So, the next time you decide to throw yourself a pity party over something miniscule think of this young woman, as she, her family and friends wanted nothing more than to live together.

She died exactly one week after I made this photograph. And even though I did not know her I suppose a piece of me died as well.

Be well.

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