Here I sit thinking about how when I first began photography that I wanted to be the "Jerry Maguire" type of photographer with my clients. I wanted to understand their needs and find out what makes them all "unique", or "beautiful". For me, one's character is EVERYTHING! I've lost so many people that I was acquainted with just because their character was seriously flawed. Hell, they still keep on with their petty nonsense...whining isn't winning!
Eventually, all of that pettiness got old, and I had to grow into a better "Jerry Maguire" for myself. I had to start focusing in on the good people. I tuned all the outside noise out and opened myself up to my clients to allow them to know that we're in this together....win or lose!
Here's one of my winners... Ms. Alicia Copeland...
...I met Alicia Copeland on 10 December 2014 at a studio when I was just beginning to learn studio photography. We were going to do a year-long project called, "Black Barbie" because we wanted to inspire young black girls that Barbie can be strong, intelligent, fashionable, and most of all....BEAUTIFUL! We ended up not doing the entire shoot because of conflicting schedules (mainly my own from travel), and we both just kept on as great friends. In 2016, Alicia contacted me to do a photo shoot with her and her Fiance Jeremiah.
We met up at Washington Park in Denver and the three of us really just "clicked". They were so fun to work with, and we talked about them and their future plans. The one thing that Alicia told me that made me tear up was that she wanted to do this photoshoot because she was diagnosed with cancer and she wanted something to feel good about before she lost her hair to chemotherapy. Throughout this entire time, I continued to keep in contact with Alicia to ensure that she's doing okay.
I want to make sure before I let Alicia speak, I'm going to give a huge shout out to her Fiance Jeremiah Daniels. This guy has been so supportive like a good man should! A lot of guys wouldn't know how to handle this at a young age, but this man has stood there like a champion and I'm proud to call him a friend!
Now here's Alicia's story...
"It started one night while I was bowling, and I felt a horrible pain under my left arm that I never felt before. I texted my sister and she made me promise I would go get it checked out. I knew something wasn’t right because I knew my body. The pain went away before I saw a doctor, and I was told because of my age it was probably some fibrous tissue so I accepted that and moved on. Months went by and it seemed as though my “fibrous tissue” was getting bigger. Life allowed me to keep pushing it aside and saying I would deal with it later. Finally, the day came when I figured I would get it checked out...again. The next doctor insisted I have an x-ray done. My results came back suspicious so I was sent to another facility for an ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy. My nurse told me that it could either be fibrous tissue or cancer. In my head, I thought, 'there is no way it could be cancer...I’m too young'. I was sent off to have a CT and Bone scan done just in case it was cancer so that the oncologist would have all the information she needed. As I was sitting in the hospital waiting room to have my scans done I got a phone call. It was my nurse...I couldn’t tell by her voice what my results were but she sounded upbeat so I was a little hopeful. I went upstairs as fast as I could to see her. She broke the news to me...I had breast cancer. It was at least stage 2, 3, or 4 because it was in my lymph nodes. She told me the typical treatment plan...chemo, surgery, and radiation. I didn’t cry and just smiled at her and told her I was okay.
I went back downstairs to finish my scans, and I looked around at everyone around me. I didn’t belong there. I was “healthy”. I lifted heavy weights 5-6 days week and bowled several days a week. I’m a nanny and massage therapist so I’m constantly on the go and moving. Daily I looked up new healthy recipes to cook. The most I’ve ever had in life was the chicken pox as a child and the common cold, not even the Flu! Cancer doesn’t just affect the “sick”.
Next, I saw an alternative doctor who gave me a better understanding of cancer. We ALL have cancer cells in our body. Mine just went rogue and needed to be controlled. I left his office ready to take back my body.
A few days later, I met my oncologist, who told me that statistics show that black women are more likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age versus other races. This was quite shocking to hear because when I thought of breast cancer I always thought of older white women. At least that’s what is shown mainly during Breast Cancer Awareness. I was informed that I was stage 4 because they saw something suspicious in my sternum. She explained all of her recommendations from chemo, mastectomy, radiation, and hormone treatments. I accepted it all until she said she didn’t want me to ever give birth. That was the one thing I couldn’t accept...
I put off starting chemo as long as I could. I was supposed to be planning my wedding and my future with the love of my life. This was supposed to be my Golden Year, 28 years old, excited about the future ahead not preparing for the biggest change my body/life had ever seen.
I completed 5 of 8 rounds of chemo. I stopped early due to certain side effects that my body couldn’t tolerate. I opted for only a unilateral mastectomy and refused radiation. I made my OWN decisions. I didn’t let the doctors push me into doing everything just because it was standard protocol. This is my body and I have choices.
I never questioned the Lord and asked why is this happening to me. My purpose in life is to help others and be a light for those that don’t know Him. I decided to find the good in my situation. I built a stronger relationship with God and my family. The Lord opened my eyes to what was really important in life. He has blessed me in more ways than I can count. There have been so many times this past year that my bills shouldn’t have been paid or my body shouldn’t have been moving, but He always made a way.
I have continued to workout and work throughout my journey. They tell you to be careful around people and germs (and you should). Needless to say, though I’m a bit of a rule breaker. My fiancé Jeremiah kept me motivated in the gym and giving massages was some of the best calming escapes. When I’m giving a massage my job is to relax and/or help my client with a particular issue. However, at the same time, I receive the exact same benefits and more because I was able to help someone.
The worst part of this journey has been others reactions to my diagnosis. I typically get the “I’m so sorry you are dying face”. Please don’t feel sorry for me because I don’t feel sorry for myself. Some days are harder than others but every day I get up and thank the Lord for my life. I may not know what the future holds for me but I do know that the Lord continues to open doors for me so I know I have a purpose. I am here right now to touch people’s lives figuratively and literally.
I have learned throughout this journey to be present. Present in my relationships, my job, and in Him. I needed to slow down and Breathe. I still struggle at times and fall back into my old fast-paced routine. Every now and then, I hear a little voice whisper, “slow down and enjoy this moment right here”. Many times we are so focused on the future and past that we forget the Present.
Below are the dates of how things went in my journey:
August 2016: Diagnosed
September 2016: Started chemo
January 31: Mastectomy
July 31: 2nd Surgery
November 14: 3rd Surgery"
Thank you all for making the time to read this and being so encouraging. We hit turning points in our lives all the time, and we all go through things in life. It's how you deal with it that matters. Again, this is why I only involve myself with "high character" people like Alicia and Jeremiah. They make me realize why I love being a photographer!