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.

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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.

 

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S. Family | Blooming Orchard Mini Session | Northern Michigan Photographer

I just LOVE spring blooming orchard pictures! I can’t wait for this year’s warm weather to pop open those beautiful, heavenly white blossoms!

Kari, the incredibly talented artist at August Afternoon Photography is such an amazing person who inspires me so much! I love her to death and look forward to the times we get to work together! Especially when that means I get to capture her and her sweet family!

Our spring pictures last year had two very special assignments:

  1. Mommy and Me pictures – turns out, photographers tend to have a ton of pictures of their kids, but, like zero pictures of Mom with those precious kiddos!
  2.  Scroll down to see the other ADORABLE announcement they got to make!

*spoiler alert! Baby brother was born in December 2017! (I’m constantly behind on this blogging thing!)

 

H. Family | Blooming Orchard Family Session | Michigan Photographer

Nothing makes me happier than an orchard in bloom! Such wonderful glowing beauty surrounding everyone in the gathering golden hour sunset. I love it! I’m looking forward so much to this year’s spring warmth and orchard blooms!

 

Thank you so much, Kelly, for bringing your beautiful family to me again – I’m already planning this year’s portraits with you! It’s such a joy to me to watch your family grow and to be a part of creating these images for you.

 

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!

A. Family | Orchard Blossom Golden Hour | Northern Michigan

I love orchard blossom time! There is no better spring moment than when you can walk through an orchard in full bloom, each aisle becoming its very own “White Way of Delight”! Every tree “bestarred with its tufts of blossom”.

I think orchard blossom sessions became my very favorite the moment this family stepped in front of my camera last May! This session was crazy and fun as we wrangled the little ones for a few good shots, but I love how they all turned out. Even the ones where little sis is trying to bite big bro for blowing all of her dandelion fuzz before she got the chance! Ha! I love this family and we are blessed to be part of their lives!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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This girl is on fire! 😀

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Glamour | Kristen | Her Experience with Riverains Photography

beforeafter-2Looking back a few years to July 2013 to my session with Kristen! This was just a few short months after I’d discovered the incredible talent of Sue Bryce and had begun to learn the techniques behind her wildly successful Glamour Portrait business. What drew me to Sue Bryce was hardly her business sense, though. It was her amazing ability to connect with all women, of all backgrounds, body shapes, and insecurities, and in the space of a few hours reveal to them their own beauty….and capture it in an image that would remind them, over and over, what it means to embrace it. Embody it. Live it.

Kristen was gracious enough to be one of the first practice sessions as I began the learning process! She suffers from adult acne which makes it difficult at times for her to see past to the beauty within. During the time we spent together, I was amazed by the easy way she connected with the camera, and thrilled to see the intensity and confidence shining bright through her eyes and her body language. It was a great experience for me, and I was happy to have Kristen write this wonderful review of her side of the experience!

Kristen 7747 edit 2 jpg small “When I first heard “glamour shoot” I instantly thought of the horrible circa 1990s glamour pictures you would get done at the mall. I was hesitant. However with talking to Lisa and seeing her passion and excitement for her photography, I knew for certain this was not going to be pictures you get from the mall. From the moment I sat in the makeup chair, I felt at ease. As a mother of two, I do not get many opportunities to put on makeup and an outfit that I feel sexy in. Lisa and her makeup artist, Raini, not only exuded confidence in their abilities to make me feel beautiful but also exuded kindness in making me feel at home. Lisa’s goal of the day was to capture a shot that I could reflect on and see that I am beautiful! It is not very often that you come across a photographer that is equally as thrilled as you to see the outcome of the shoot. Lisa’s excitement throughout the whole session created fire within me. For those couple of hours I was a supermodel and I liked it! Lisa’s passion for photography is clearly evident in her work. I was shocked at how many photographs she came back with at the reveal. Each one was stunning and beyond my wildest expectations. The photos made me embrace what was already there; my beauty. The whole experience is something that I will cherish forever. I not only walked away from this shoot with breathtaking photographs but with more confidence about the person I am inside and out.” ~KristenKristen 7758 small

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Kristen 7751 edit smallsmall gorgeous glamour cover girl michiganKristen curates a great blog at here at Blissfully Insane, which you will LOVE! Go check it out and give her page a like at Blissfully Insane’s Facebook Page.

Thank you for the wonderful review, Kristen!

A Top Ten Feature!

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Last week I had the honor of being featured in  {Top Ten | Yellow}  over at  Jackie Jean’s blog! The blog post can be found here at shopjeanphotography.com

If you are not familiar with Jackie Jean Photography, she has a fantastic website full of resources for photographers, including actions, presets, overlays, and workshops. She also hosts a wonderfully supportive group on facebook where photographers can share their work and enter the weekly Top Ten challenges.

 

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This picture is one of my absolute favorites, and it’s an honor to see it recognized in the Top Ten! Thank you Jackie!

A Family | Fall Photo Session | Northern Michigan Photographer

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It was such a pleasure getting to know the Allen’s on a beautiful fall day last October! Well, actually, make that two days in October! Our first session was marked with tears and babies who weren’t feeling the best. So we got together again with great results! Sometimes a little extra time spent with my clients makes all the difference, and I’m so glad we could all find time in our schedules to make these special family portraits happen!

 

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Couple In Love Autumn Color Leaves Beautiful Northern Michigan

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I loved seeing their wall portraits and gift prints ready for delivery!

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Interested in a Fall Family Session this year? Call now (231-620-2505) or email me (riverainsphotography@gmail.com) to book your appointment with Riverains Photography! Sessions are limited and October in Northern Michigan is the prime time for family portraits!

R&L | Fall Family Session | Northern Michigan Photographer

There is no better place to be during the second week of October than in Northern Michigan! When the trees seem to be a light source all their own, when the sights and smells are so brilliant they’re almost overwhelming. For some, autumn scenes signal the end of warmth and the beginning of dreary, never-ending winter. But for others, autumn IS the new beginning.

Light. Love. Laughter. These are the things that made this fall family photo session so special!

As this gorgeous mom finishes up her finals this week and wraps up the first year of a grueling nursing program, I’ve never been more proud to call her my friend!

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Fall Family Photographs Alden Photographer October

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