Princess Alexis! | Cancer Remission Celebration Session | Northern Michigan Photographer

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of Princess Alexis, I wanted to help bring awareness by sharing some of her story. This photo session took place in August 2017, with the ripeness of summer warmth helping us celebrate her incredible new diagnosis: REMISSION.  What a beautiful, wonderful, splendid word! I wanted to make her feel like a fairy tale princess, so I rented this spectacular Cinderella dress from Anna Triant Couture that Alexis picked out, and we drove out to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, with it’s spires and golden brick castleish beauty before heading to the beach at Clinch Park and downtown Traverse City.

Alexis is a cancer warrior, but for this one night she wasn’t a little girl in remission, with surgery scars and an old soul, she was simply a princess, believing her dreams will all come true! I had grandiose ideas of poses and places, but honestly, I barely got a handful of images of her looking and smiling. She was in her own world, twirling and dancing, talking a mile a minute, running here and there with me trying to keep up. I finally gave in and just let her be a princess. Like she was always meant to be.

Day after surgery, Sept 1, 2010. Elmo has been right there beside her through it all, with tape on his face like Alexis had for her feeding tube! *thank you to Alexis’s mom for sharing these pictures with us!

Alexis: “Did you know that EVERY year on Halloween, and I mean EVERY one of my EIGHT Halloweens, I have been Cinderella?!”

Girl, you don’t need a Prince Charming or a Fairy Godmother, you were BORN a Warrior Princess!

Every day, 43 kids are diagnosed with cancer. Despite the advances in research and treatment, those numbers continue to rise. More than 40,000 kids will undergo treatment for cancer this year. One out of 8 will not survive.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even write those words without crying.

“My baby girl had to learn to walk in a hospital. She learned her alphabet in a rocking chair with IV lines across her lap..”, her mother recalls. *Picture courtesy of Alexis’s mom.

The average age of diagnosis is 6. Kindergarten age.

Alexis was 14 months when her parents found themselves in a nightmare that they couldn’t wake up from. Walking into the ER with a sick baby, it was then a whirlwind of tests, scans, and the sobering reality of stage 4 neuroblastoma. They didn’t go home for 44 days. And that was just the beginning.

If you’re like me you’re wondering, what can I do? How can I help? First, pray for these kids and their families. Second, get in touch with your nearest children’s hospital. I guarantee there is a link on the website to either donate or volunteer. Check it out. Ask yourself honestly what you can do to make things better with the resources you have. Get involved. GO now.

IMG_0894 edit small

I’m hoping to bring awareness to childhood cancer. But the reality is that no amount of statistics and numbers can really reach you. It’s the stories. The faces. The families struggling to bring some sense of normal back to the lives of their children who are so sick. Hoping the nightmare will end. Praying the pain will stop because watching your child in agonizing pain is a special kind of hell.

In the beginning of the journey lots of people offer help, stop by, bringing food or gifts, trying to find ways to comfort, but often they grow discouraged or feel helpless when the fight drags on.

I remember when my son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and we went through the process of corrective heart surgery, tons of doctors appointments, driving all over, plus having an infant and toddler to care for felt overwhelming. It was nice when well-meaning people would ask me how they could help, or to “let them know” if I needed anything, but my mind would go absolutely blank. I couldn’t organize my thoughts into broad helpful ideas, much less concise instructions or particular needs. At times the burden of asking for help when I was such a mess was simply additional weight on my shoulders.

A family dealing with a child who is fighting cancer goes through something much more intense than what we experienced. With a much longer time frame of appointments, hospital stays, restrictions on visitors and an unforgiving need to prevent germs and infections.

Start by asking “How can I help you?” If you get the deer-in-the-headlight look, try more specific questions, like “Can I bring you a hot meal tomorrow for dinner or one to put in the freezer for later?”, or “Is there a day this week that I can come pick up the other kids and take them to the park or keep them all day so you can rest and focus?”

Think of what you know about their particular situation and possible difficulties and ask specific questions. Don’t feel bad if they don’t respond right away or not at all. It’s not personal. They’re just overwhelmed and trying to survive.

A few things that are ALWAYS helpful:
Gift Cards. Think Wal-Mart, grocery stores, and gas cards.
Home cooked meals.
Hugs.
Prayers.

Hospital life is not only emotionally exhausting, it’s expensive. It’s being away from home for weeks on end. The meals aren’t free and sometimes aren’t very good. Driving back and forth to take care of your responsibilities at home takes money for gas. And then there’s the time off work and the loss of pay. As if your child being sick isn’t devastating enough. Gift cards might feel too impersonal, but they relieve some of that very real financial burden.

If you do not know someone personally who is going through this, I hope these stories touch your heart and that you donate to organizations or take the time to volunteer!

Alexis was in the fight of her life for far too long, but is officially in remission since July 2017!

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” ~Winston Churchill

We balk at suffering. We hate it, turn away from it, close our eyes and refuse to see it, until it’s someone next to us. It makes us feel helpless and we seek comfort, peace, and safety so hard that it blinds us.

We’re terrified of suffering, and in our blindness we fail to see that suffering has power. It’s never wasted. From the ashes of their innocence these children rise up as warriors, full of hope, strength, purpose, and a passion for helping their fellow sufferers. Listen to their stories. Empower their dreams. Support the supporters.

“Alexis, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I. Have. OPTIONS.”

Tears sprang to my eyes with the fierceness in her voice as she said those words. The world in front of me blurred as I struggled to find my voice again. I couldn’t see through my viewfinder, so I set the camera down on my lap.

“What options are your favorite ones to think about right now?”

“Umm….let’s see…”, she pondered, expressive eyes looking all around. “I have SO many options! I could be a mountain climber, or an artist, or a swimming instructor, or a veterinarian! I love to paint! And actually…..I am already a mountain climber. I’ve climbed up Papa Mitch lots of times!”

Her words, spoken with such conviction, such hope…. left me speechless, my heart squeezing tightly as I watched her flutter off in her princess gown, back to her twirling.

Her life hung in the balance for so very long.

And I’m not just talking about the chemo, radiation, surgery, and immunotherapy that required every ounce of her energy to fight for her life daily for a over a year.

I’m talking about relapse. At the time of her diagnosis, the statistics were beyond grim. If she survived the initial horror of neuroblastoma and treatment, the rate of relapse was high.

“Approximately 50-60% of high-risk neuroblastoma patients will have a relapse. There is no cure for relapsed neuroblastoma.” *Journal of Medicine, 2010.

Yes, her life hung in the balance for far longer than just the treatment. Hope for a future is a very precious thing. Every time she went in for scans her family held their breath, praying, begging, daring to hope as each scan came back clean. When she entered into remission this summer they could finally speak of her future in terms of years instead of months. Hope! Sweet, wonderful hope.

Take hold of those dreams, Alexis, and NEVER let go! Keep reaching for those stars and climbing those mountains. We can’t wait to see how far you’ll go!

“A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true”
~Cinderella

“Can I please please please take some pictures?! I just want to see it. Is this how you do it?” I. Could. Not. Say. NO. To. Her. Until she started twirling with the camera. 😉

I want to say a special thank you to Alexis’s mom, who shared these precious pictures of what life with pediatric cancer looked like. She opened up about the many struggles and fears of that time, and I still can’t read those words without choking up. What I’ve shared here was just the tip of the iceberg for her family, she could write a book about all that they’ve been through! Just take a moment, please, and say a prayer for those families caught up in the fight for life against pediatric cancers. Reach out to one of the many organizations that support these families and find out how you can support someone who needs your help.

 

Advertisements

Senior | Tori A. | Autumn Senior Portraits in Northern Michigan

Tori wanted her senior pictures to be taken around Torch Lake where her family spends time every summer! We met up in Rapid City on a beautiful October day, when the autumn color was at its finest, yet still warm enough to brave the Torch Lake waters for a few fun sunset images. Tori has such an amazing smile, a spirit that just shines through to everyone around her! We had a fantastic time getting these images, I’m so glad she wanted her senior pictures up north and came all the way from downstate to let me be part of the process. Go Class of 2017~ Best of Luck on the next adventure!

Birthday Portraits | Elayna | Michigan Outdoor Photographer

Every little girl DREAMS of being a princess! Vibrant dreams of ballgowns and tiaras, twirling around and around in beautiful flights of fancy. img_2646-edit-full-copy

What better way to make a little bit of that dream come true than by renting a gorgeous gown for a 9th birthday photo shoot! Elayna chose this blue dress by fancy frock-maker Dollcake and we rented it from Rainey’s Closet. She couldn’t WAIT for the dress to arriveand twirled around with a huge grin when she was finally able to put it on!

img_2745-edit-full

Her May birthday lines up perfectly with cherry blossom time when the Grand Traverse Bay region is frothy with orchards blooming all around! It’s the perfect setting for a birthday portrait straight from her best dreams.

Make a wish, Birthday Girl!

img_2682-edit-small
img_2729-edit-full

img_2772-edit-small

img_2692-bw-edit-small

img_2792-edit-small

img_2798-edit-small

img_2807-edit-small

img_2820-edit-small

 

Just at sunset, we went down the hill to a field of beautiful yellow flowers (her favorite color!) where she was especially happy to spend a few minutes.

img_2843-edit-small

This girl is on fire! 😀

img_2911-edit-full

First Birthday | Baby D. | Northern Michigan Photographer

Sweet Baby D! Such a beautiful baby girl, growing so very fast! It seems like she was just coming in with her parents for her newborn pictures, and then just moments later for her first birthday.

Now we’re coming up on her second birthday and she is a proud big sis to a new baby brother!

Thank you for letting me capture these precious moments!

img_2076-edit-small

Her crocodile tear just KILLS me.

img_2105-edit-smallgrayling-photographer-family-first-natural-lightfirst-bday-photography-kalkaska-studio-baby-girl-michigan

There is nothing sweeter than the simplicity of a baby in a white onesie!!

img_2145-edit-smallfamily-photography-northern-michigan-studio-natural-lightimg_2160-edit-smallimg_2191-edit-small

WHAT is this nasty stuff?! The cake smash was definitely NOT her favorite thing! 😉

img_2201-edit-smallfirst-birthday-cake-smash-session-photos-michigan-photographerimg_2214-edit-small

Cousins | Christmas Tree Farm Mini | Northern Michigan Photographer

Because when it’s almost 60 degrees in the middle of December, you just have to get out there and have fun in your Christmas jammies!img_1091-edit-small

 

December 2015img_1099-edit-small

Have I ever mentioned how much we love Hanna Andersson pajamas? We love the fit, the softness, and the quality that makes it possible to hand down well-loved pjs through these three sisters. 😉img_1125-edit-small

And if I’m being honest, Emma is already wearing the jammies that Joshua was wearing in these images. Because red and green stripes are for EVERYONE in the month of December!img_1132-edit-small

It’s not just my blog that I’m behind on! I finally had some of these adorable pictures printed and framed for my own mantle. Usually I stick to a fall-themed assortment of pictures because I LOVE me some October goodness! But this year when I was decorating for Christmas I decided it was time to switch it up and print my favorite holiday memories, and I’m so glad I did. What’s better than being reminded of the wonder and joy of your children during the holiday season?!img_1153-edit-small

Print your memories. Look back on the good times. Embrace the fleeting moments.

img_1158-edit-small

Those are the things you won’t regret.

img_1179-edit-small

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

img_1230-edit-smallimg_1252-edit-small

H. Family | Christmas Tree Farm Mini | Northern Michigan Photographer

 

Snow!! We completely lucked out on this wintry scene on the day of this mini session! The snow didn’t last long and we spent the rest of the month of December hoping (in vain) for a White Christmas. img_0670-edit-small

Well, at least we had these images for the H. Family’s Christmas Cards, right?!

img_0689-edit-small

I’m so glad they brought their sweet little fur-baby for these images, it’s always a lot of fun to get to know the furriest members of the family. And it’s important to capture them in family portraits, too! img_0673-edit-small

Thank you for braving the cold for a few minutes on this wintry day last December!

img_0701-edit-smallimg_0676-edit-2-smallimg_0697-edit-smallimg_0685-edit-smallimg_0658-edit-smallimg_0704-edit-small

Kayla & Kyle | Married!

What a beautiful day for a wedding! I wish them many, many years of happy togetherness! Congratulations Kayla & Kyle!

2013-09-04_0001 2013-09-04_0002 2013-09-04_0003 2013-09-04_0004 2013-09-04_00342013-09-04_00052013-09-04_0007 2013-09-04_00322013-09-04_0008

 

2013-09-04_0031

2013-09-04_0006

 

2013-09-04_0010 2013-09-04_00302013-09-04_0033

2013-09-04_0009

 

Kristen | College Grad!

Kristen is the gorgeous girl married to Josh, the man who has been my husband’s best friend since they were 12 years old. Over the years Kristen and I have become good friends as well and I absolutely love that I get to capture the moments and celebrations of their family life almost as much as I capture my own!

Congratulations on your graduation, Kristen!

2013-08-28_0005
2013-08-28_0003
2013-08-28_0001 2013-08-28_0004