What's your story?
I grew up in Rocky River with a younger brother, and we had a great childhood, we have always had a very strong family presence in our lives and it’s been so important to keep that up as an adult. I have a wonderful family and amazing friends who have always been supportive.
On- April 27th, 2018- I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia. I was also told that without a bone marrow transplant my diagnosis was fatal. My transplant was August 14, 2018, and a few days after I went into full renal failure (kidneys shut down) which forced me to be on dialysis for 24 hours a day, and, even after my family was prepped, that I most likely would not make it through this, I did, and I am still here!
*What made you nervous about having your portrait taken?
After I came out of the ICU, I had been unconscious about my body. I went from 130 lbs pre-transplant and, I wake up 210 pounds in fluid, and not knowing how to walk on my own because I lost most of my muscle mass in my legs. I was put on high dose steroids to treat different side effects post transplant. I have a “new body” it’s bigger then I have ever been, I am self conscious, I’ve been shy about getting my picture taken and going to events because I hate the way I look.
*What do you love doing that makes you feel kick ass?
I do love talking to people about cancer/leukemia and answering their questions, anything they may want to know. I love teaming up with other patients and giving each other advice and or making newer patients aware of what can and cannot happen. It makes me feel so good that I can share this with others and make them comfortable with what’s either going to happen, or giving them a safe space to completely vent by just listening and offering a shoulder to cry on. The word cancer is a scary thing, but you take it and make it into something less scary in your own way. You have to Always Keep going.
What inspired you to do this portrait?
I have always had body issues my whole life. I have done every diet that’s been out there, I’ve tried fasting, and yet even though it works but it’s exhausting to worry about what you weigh and look like 24/7. I have finally decided what was my own worst enemy in my mind, should be my best friend. My body is different because I am on so many medicines post transplant, that have made me incredibly bloated and heavy but how can I be mad at this beautiful vessel we get one chance in. The medicines and treatments that have made me hate my body image, is what is actually keeping me alive! You finally get to a point where have to finally let it all go, throw your hands into the air, and understand there is nothing that can be done about it at the moment- I am alive, I am a survivor, and I won’t let what my body looks like right now dictate my happiness. This shoot let’s me jump out of my comfort zone and show of this new body of mine!!
What bad ass women inspire you?
There are a lot of amazing women in my family who have dealt with cancer before. My mom, my aunts and both of my grandma’s and I know one badass boy, my younger brother was only 15 when he was diagnosed and beat the crap out testicular cancer!
Any other comments?
This was the most amazing and limit pushing experience in my life to date, first, I love Jen, and we had so much fun! And thank you for taking such beautiful pictures. I am so glad I did this. I do not like change and I had to learn very fast this past year, that change was inevitable. My whole body is one of my battle scars- and instead of resisting it- I have decided to embrace it completely... I know over time all will be ok.