Survivor Saturday w/ Charelle Barnes - Maryland Photographer

Hey everyone!!  It's Survivor Saturday and today I bring you Mrs. Charelle Barnes.  She came to the session with her son who was so attentive to his mother and so sweet.  Charelle's personality is larger than life and she knows how to have a good time.  I have been doing these sessions for a while now and I have not had one with a person that has been given a terminal diagnosis.  Hearing Charelle's story really touched me and to see her still working and taking care of her family was inspiring to say the least.  Please read her story and keep her and her family in your prayers.  Please meet Charelle...

1. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer on May 10, 1994 just less than 2 months shy of my 21st birthday. I didn’t know what cervical cancer was or how you could get it. My doctor scheduled my surgery date less than a week later. After having surgery, I was advised that all the cancer had been removed, but I would never have children. I was devastated because I was so young and all I ever wanted to do was get married and to be a mon. As it turns out, I got pregnant and had my first child on April 23rd, 1995. I tried breast-feeding my son, but he would not latch on. When I went in for my six-week check-up, the doctor found a lump and recommended testing. After all the testing was done the results came back that I had breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy this time I had to have chemotherapy and radiation. Between all that, I got married on July 7th, 1995. After finishing radiation, I was told I was CANCER FREE. In early 1996, I started not to feel well but I didn’t think anything of it. Went in for a check-up and he doctor was concerned because my blood counts were a little off and I told him how I’d been feeling and the pains I was having in my chest. He ran more test and I was told my cancer had returned. It was a Stage IIIB, like I really knew what that meant. The oncologist recommended that I get a double breast mastectomy. I had no one to talk to because there was no one my age going through or had gone through what I was going through. I talked with my husband and he said I’m behind you whatever you decide I’m not going anywhere. I prayed about it and decided not to have it. My doctor was furious but the decision was mine to make and live with the consequences. I was scheduled for surgery and started chemotherapy shortly after. I was going in to have my bloodwork done to get my 2nd chemo treatment and was told I was pregnant. I gave birth to my second son on December 31st, 1996 and immediately started back on chemotherapy.

In 2010, at the age of 36, I was told my cancer had metastasized to my lung, stomach, bone, and brain. My cancer is now terminal. In 2012, the doctors gave me a year and then less than 6 months to live. I’ve out lived that time frame. I’m still here; I’m still fighting.

2. What/Who helped you get through your treatment?

My family, especially my husband, and my relationship with God. (and not wanting another taking my place😀)

3. What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

I've only celebrated once and that was when I celebrated my 20th Warriorversary. I went out to lunch with my bff Shay and her mom Ms. Jackie and we had brunch with a cake.

4. Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

Shay Sharpe's Pink Wishes

5. What advice would you give to someone that is just being diagnosed?

Keep God first! Do not tackle this battle alone. Make sure to have the most important people around you that will pray for you, encourage you, and most importantly help you. Be your own advocate. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Survivor Saturday w/ Tonyia Renee - Maryland Photographer

After a short break to take vacation and get some much needed rest; I am back with another SURVIVOR!!!  Tonyia came to her session with a heavy heart after losing a loved one but she pushed through and we had a great time.  Tonyia had a smile and even though some tears were shed we still had an amazing time getting to know each other.  Everyone meet Tonyia! 

What type of Cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

I was diagnosed with stage 2b cervical cancer is February 2006. But only after having suffered severe pains and bleeding for 3 years leading up to a final diagnosis. 

2. How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was just turning 30 years old.

 

3. What/Who helped you get through your treatment?

I suffered in silence and was very alone from the very beginning of my process. I suffered from bleeding and pain in a way that I couldn't explain to people without feeling like I was complaining too much. Family members and friends knew something was wrong but I didn't confide in the truth until after having the cancer removed. 

 

4. When were you deemed Cancer Free?

I was deemed cancer free in January 2007 at my 6 week follow up after a full hysterectomy 

5. What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

Honestly I don't have a ritual. I find myself celebrating being cancer free spontaneously. It hits me every so often and I GO OFF! I sing I cry I write...I just PRAISE God that I'm here!

6. Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

I have been active in a few charities since feeling comfortable enough to share my cancer story. I am currently the D.C. Chapter Leader for the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC). I've also been a part of Cervivor a Cervical Cancer awareness organization created and ran by Tamika Felder and We Can-Cer Vive an organization geared to supporting suffers, survivors and caregivers of ALL affected by cancer created and ran by Mia Wright.

7. What advice would you give to someone that is just being diagnosed?

My advise to anyone just being diagnosed is to lean on your family and friend group for support. Begin to write a journal to help you organize your thoughts and this process. Don't shut out the people who could be your support system out of embarrassment or fear. Listen to all possible options and pray for what's best for you. Don't allow this temporary situation dictate the rest of your life! 
 

Survivor Saturday w/ Vatesha B. - Maryland Photographer

Hello everyone!  It's Survivor Saturday with Ms. Vatesha!  We had a time trying to get this session scheduled but she was a trooper and we got it done.  We had a great time and laughed so much during this session!  I love a person that can laugh through life and have a great time.  This school teacher came ready to get her glam on and pose for her life!  Everyone please meet Vatesha...

1. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

          Breast Cancer- diagnosed February 27, 2014

When I was diagnosed back in 2014, I was diagnosed at stage 2B, which meant that my cancer had spread into my lymph nodes. From the time I received the news until I began treatment was a whirlwind. I got the news in February and my team of doctors wanted to start treatment right away. Because I was so young and had no kids, it was suggested that I see a fertility specialist about getting my eggs frozen. During the month of March I was under the care of Shady Grove Fertility Clinic and I had my eggs frozen. Soon after I began my chemo treatment on April 4, 2014. I finished on July 11, 2014. A month later on August 20, 2014 I received a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and the lymph nodes affected by the cancer. Finally from September from to November I received radiation.

Upon diagnosis, my family, friends, and colleagues were there for me from the very start. I had so much support from everyone that it was overwhelming. I was so grateful for all the love and support I received. It really gave me the strength I needed to fight and beat the disease.

2. How old were you when you were diagnosed?

            36

3. What/Who helped you get through your treatment?

           My faith in God, my family, my best friends, colleagues, my sorority sisters

4. When were you deemed Cancer Free?

           August 20, 2014

5. What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

            Participated in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk with family, friends, sorority sisters Had a big dinner party at one of my favorite restaurants

6. Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

            Participate in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk back home in Charlotte, NC

7. What advice would you give to someone that is just being diagnosed?

            FIGHT!!  Having a positive attitude and believing that you're going to beat cancer is half the battle. Also have a strong support system around you to get you through those tough moments.

Survivor Saturday w/ LaQuisha Hawkins - Maryland Portrait Photographer

After a week off we are back with another Survivor at Catherine Rae Photography. Let me tell you that I love the Hawkins family!!!!  LaQuisha came to her shoot ready to go and her two sisters accompanied her!  They were a blast to have over for the session.  We laughed, changed lipstick and just had a great time.  They are a close family and their sisterhood and love for each other was evident.  Please read LaQuisha's story and share with all you know!  Everyone, meet LaQuisha!

1.  What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

I was diagnosed with Breast cancer Stage 0 DCIS and I was diagnosed on March 14. I had gone to the doctor(on March 4) for a severe headache that I had had for a couple of days that wouldn’t go away after taking medication while I was there the doctor saidit was time I have my mammogram so I took it that day and on March 10 the doctor called to say that it was abnormal could I come back in to retake it so I did and they saw calcium deposits in my right breast so I was asked to take a biopsy that same day (Friday, March 11). Then on Monday, March 14  on my day off while I was shopping in Target I got the call that I did in fact have breast Cancer Stage 0 DCIS(Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) which means in place that it has not spread. Needless to say I was devastated and couldn’t even finish shopping or drive myself home. I managed to call my Mom and she sent my Dad and cousin to come and pick me up.

2.  How old were you when you was diagnosed?

I was 45 when I was diagnosed.

3.  What/who helped you get through your treatment?

My faith in GOD and my family/friends have been and still are my ROCK. I never questioned God as to why this happened to me I just trusted that He would get me through and He did. He says I will never leave you nor forsake you and my family and friends were there right from the start when I first got the news and have been there ever since every step of the way changing their eating habits with me, going to doctor’s appointments, throwing me a Pink and White Party just being there for me for anything that I needed and I’m truly so thankful and blessed to have them.

LHawkins-6.jpg

4.  When were you deemed cancer free?

I  had a mastectomy and reconstruction on JULY 22 so I am happy to say that I am cancer free. It has been 7 months and although I’m still getting adjusted to this new boob for the most part I feel great and very grateful that I didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. PRAISE GOD so yeah I am BLESSED!!!!

5.  What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

I haven’t really celebrated and I’m not sure what I will do on my 1 year Cancerversary I’m just thankful and grateful to be here to share my story so that it may help someone else.

6.  Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

Not as of yet

7.  What advice would you give to someone that is just being diagnosed?

Don’t give up. Keeping fighting and trust God that He will get you through. You CAN and you WILL SURVIVE…..I DID!!!! Also, read and educate yourself because every situation is different. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors questions no question is a dumb one!

Survivor Saturday w/ Shanicka Rice - Maryland Portrait Photographer

Hello everyone!  Survivor Saturday belongs to Shanicka Rice.  Shanicka came with the most amazing wardrobe and was ready to embrace her full inner diva and was more than joyful to have this session!  Breast cancer was and is not stopping this young lady from living her life.  Her amazing husband was at the session also to offer his support as well.  We had a good time and just laughed and talked.  It is truly amazing to hear what each of these women have gone through.  Everyone please meet Shanicka and read her story!

 1. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when? Breast; 12/28/2010 & 11/14/2016

Well it was the second week in September 2016, almost 6 years after my initial Stage 1 BC dx. I was scheduled to see my plastic surgeon for my annual exam. I wasn't going to go because my implant felt fine. I'd already had five surgeries and I didn't want to endure another, so I had made my mind up and decided I wasn't going. The day of something just told me to call the plastic surgeon's office and that's what I did. After briefly speaking with the receptionist I decided I'd leave work and make my way downtown to Mercy Medical Ctr from Middle River. After a little wait, I saw Dr Chang. He examined my right breast which was my natural breast, the breast I paid more attention to because I always felt like if cancer reared its hideous self in my body again, it would be there. I had some sagging, but I was OK with that. My husband is fine with it , I'm fine with it and most importantly I didn't want a sixth surgery. So he gets to the left (my January 2011 mastectomy side). He says "you have something here under the skin that doesn't feel right; you need to get in with your breast surgeon". I've had a few scares in the past, so I was hoping it was just like the others- just some scar tissue or something of that nature. So on the way home from my plastic surgeon visit, I made a call to my breast surgeon whom I hadn't seen in close to four years. That next week my husband and I went to see him. He told me, there is something there so let's just get you in for ultrasound. So when I got home from the appointment, I  called advanced radiology. They had an appointment a few weeks out and it didn't seem urgent, so I took that date. I had the ultrasound which showed suspicion. The radiologist told me to get in touch with my doctor, then schedule the biopsy. I told her "no, I'm scheduling today". So that's what I did, and had it the next week. On 11/14, I got a phone call. The young lady on the other end of the phone said your breast surgeon wants to know when you'd like to come in. I replied "come in for what?" She says to discuss treatment options. I had just walked through the security gate at my job, planning to do a full days work.

I was able to do almost that , but around 1:30 it hit me like a ton of bricks. Over the following few weeks the devastation started to consume me. I couldn't believe this was happening to me again- 37 years old with BC twice. I did everything as the doctors instructed and was even on Tamoxifen, and not only did it return in the removed breast but it had spread to my lymph nodes. I had just celebrated my five year cancerversary of my last chemo on June 2. I went through so much emotional turmoil. I felt like I was not going to be here much longer. I also had thoughts of not doing treatment and just riding it out until God wanted to call me home by traveling to places I've never been, doing things I've never done and just living life to the absolute fullest with no worries, no treatment until it was my time to leave earth.  But here I am now. Had extensive surgery in December, today had my six of sixteen round of chemotherapy. I have another surgery ahead of me to redo my 2011 mastectomy that left too much breast tissue, reconstruction to my right mastectomy and port removal, then after I heal 30 rounds of radiation. After all of that is done, I also have to go on hormone therapy which will also change my life and not for the better. However, as long as I am here to share love and laughter with my loved ones, travel the world, truly feel good mentally, spiritually and emotionally and look good while doing it,  then I'm good with that!

2. How old were you when you were diagnosed?

31 & 37

3. What/Who helped you get through your treatment?

My will to watch my son grow up to be successful is the what. My husband, aunt, mom in law, sister friends & loved ones who visited me during surgery, recovery & treatment is The Who.

4. When were you deemed Cancer Free?

I consider my cancer free date 6/2/2011 my cancer free date as it was my last chemo in my first battle. 

5. What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

My husband gave me (and my brother in law who has renal failure) a surprise survivor party

6. Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

I am a mentor through S.O.S. (survivor's offering support) & Making Strides Baltimore

7. What advice would you give to someone that is just being diagnosed?

Cry when you have to, ask every single question that you have (write it down as soon as you think of it), educate yourself, improve your eating, try to maintain your normal as much as you can, tell people what you need and let them help you, pay attention to your body and take care of all of YOU.

Surivor Saturday w/Camille Goff - Maryland Portrait Photographer

I often am asked, "What led you to featuring cancer survivors?"  The answer is simple; everyone has a story and everyone should share their story to help the next person who they might not even know!  Just because an individual goes through cancer doesn't define them and I hope that this experience gives a little beauty back to the person because cancer wears a person down in so many ways.  This week our Survivor is Camille a breast cancer survivor and here is her story:

1. When and what type of cancer were you diagnosed with?

I was diagnosed twice with right breast cancer after I felt a palpable lump during self breast examinations both times.  The first time was in June 2004 at age 26 years old (one month before my 27th birthday) and the second diagnosis recently at age 38 in December 2015 (about a week before Christmas).  I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer both times in Stage 1, but with the most recent breast cancer I learned that the cells also have a “Grade” and my pathology report showed that my Grade was a 3, which meant that the cells in my tumor were poorly differentiated and more aggressive this time around.  A Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis also meant that I had fewer options for treatment and could not be treated with hormone therapy such as Tamoxifen because it would not respond to that type of treatment.  I don’t have any family history of “breast” cancer although other types of cancer does run in my family.  I did genetic testing in 2004 BRACA 1 and 2 to see if I carried a gene mutation that could be passed on to my children.  I have two children - a 19 year old daughter and a 11 year old son. My daughter was 8 years old at the time of my first cancer diagnosis and my son wasn’t born yet (he was born a year later in 2005). The genetic testing came back negative.  I also did genetic testing after my recent diagnosis in January 2016.  When I met with the genetic counselor, she told me that there were more test now then back when I had the previous testing in 2004 to check for various gene mutations that they didn’t know about back then.  All the test came back negative, which was a relief for me but still didn’t answer where did the cancer came from.  I decided to go with an entirely different medical care team with the second diagnosis which consisted of an oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and my primary care physician.  Every year after I had my first breast cancer diagnosis, I had my mammograms and was clear each time with negative findings for any malignancy.  Around 2010, when I went to get my annual mammogram the radiologist started seeing areas that they wanted to further evaluate and biopsy in both breast, but the findings were all benign (no cancer) until December 2015 when the cancer came back.  Each year after 2010 was a very nerve wrecking experience when I went for my annual mammogram screenings.  I opted to have a double mastectomy with nipple sparring breast reconstruction after my second diagnosis.  I had made up my mind that I was going to do whatever I could to lessen the chances of a recurrence so I could live as long as possible.  I met with my oncologist and nurse and we discussed my treatment plan.  It was strongly suggested by my oncologist that I do chemotherapy this time around, which I dreaded (I will terrified of chemotherapy) but again hoped that maximum treatment would give maximum results.  My oncologist during the first diagnosis felt that chemotherapy would not make too much of a difference as apart of my treatment plan due to the size of the tumor, clean margins and no lymph node activity. I was also younger and wanted to have another child. The chemotherapy drug that was suggested could push you into early menopause and cause infertility. I had a strong survival prognosis with my first cancer diagnosis. I went 11 years without a recurrence. During this second diagnosis my treatment plan included the chemotherapy drug - Adriamycin (also known as the “red devil”), Cytoxan and Taxol.  This type of chemotherapy is harsh and causes alot of side effects, but my oncologist prepared me as much as possible with anti-nausea meds, nutrition plans, and other helpful resources. I read as much as I could to cope with all the symptoms and physical changes, but to actually go through it was another story.  I lost every strand of hair on my head and body.  My hair started coming out a lot after my second chemotherapy treatment. I tried to have some control over the situation and asked my husband to shave my head on April 20, 2016. I will never forget that day!  I actually started chemotherapy on March 31st, almost a month earlier.  My plastic surgeon had inserted the tissue expanders during my double mastectomy. The tissue expanders were hard and uncomfortable but their purpose is to stretch out the muscle in preparation for the breast implants. I had several complications while getting chemotherapy throughout my entire treatment which resulted in a total of 5 surgeries from Feb - Dec 2016.  To make a long story short - the previously radiated skin on the right breast from my first breast cancer would not heal from my original double mastectomy surgery in February 2016. The surgeon tried all kinds of ways to get it to heal but the skin was so damaged that the wound underneath my breast just would not heal.  I had to get the right tissue expander and my right nipple removed in May 2016. My surgeon and I discussed me having a latissimus dorsal flap procedure. He wanted to basically take muscle from my back to reconstruct my right breast, but suggested that we wait until I was done with chemotherapy for that procedure. He also had to insert a new tissue expander on the right side after my chemotherapy was completed.  I completed my entire chemotherapy treatment plan on August 18, 2016 surrounded by the infusion center staff, my husband, and my mom. I rang that bell and got out of there as quickly as I could! It was such a relief. What a long journey, but I was finally done for real after several delays due to complications and my treatment plan had been extended at least 2 or 3 times.  It had gotten to the point that I didn’t want to discuss what I thought would be my last actual date to be finished because my oncologist had to change my treatment plan due to all the issues that occured during treatment.   I really had a tough time, but I made it to the end. I experinced so many side effects that included things such as a bladder reaction - frequency and urinary spasms, intense itching, skin peeling, fingernail discoloration/nail loss, neuropathy in my hands and feet, excessive weight loss - I lost around 24 pounds and really felt grateful that part was finally over and I could begin to live again.  I could finally look forward to building myself back up physically and mentally.  I was off from work for about 6 months and was looking forward to getting back to my “norm” again.

2. Who helped you get through your treatments?

My husband and my mom helped me get through my treatment.  They were a HUGE support system for me. My mom bought vegetables, fruits, and whatever else she thought would be helpful to almost every infusion appointment.  My husband cooked every meal and took care of everything at home.  I never had to go to a doctor’s appointment or chemotherapy treatment alone. They sat with me during EVERY treatment no matter how irritated or unpleasant my attitude was on some days -they were there. I also got support in various ways from other family members and a few close friends and co-workers.  I got text, phone calls, cards, flowers, meals delivered, and gifts which reminded me that I was being thought of almost daily or at least weekly and I wasn't alone in my fight to battle cancer.  I am a very independent and a private person that would have probably tried to do everything alone but I am so glad that I accepted all the support that I received.  It was overwhelming at times, but so appreciated.  I am and I will always be very grateful.  I even got a surprise at my final chemotherapy infusion from a friend that I haven’t seen in years.  She was one of my closest childhood friends. I've known her since elementary school.  We hugged and cried - that moment was so special and priceless in the middle of waiting room of the infusion center.

3. When were you given the all clear?

I was actually deemed cancer free when I had my double mastectomy on February 16, 2016. That was the big surgery where the cancer was removed.  I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year already.  I plan to set the tone with this 1st anniversary and do something special for myself like this Survivor photoshoot every year moving forward. Enjoy time with my family - maybe we’ll go out to a nice quiet dinner that evening.  I can really celebrate on my birthday this summer in July that I made it to 40 and pray that God blesses me with many more. I am planning either a big party or trip.

4. Do you work with any charitites or have one of your own?

I am not affiliated in any special charities at this time.  I hope to get involved and mentor other survivors in the near future.  I have done breast cancer walks and given donations to various charities in the past.

5.  What would you like to tell someone who might have been just diagnosed?

I would tell anyone that has just been diagnosed that they will get through it all. To always Have Faith, Believe, and have Hope - Do whatever to keep yourself strong spiritually and mentally because the treatment can drain you in every way.  Try to do things to make yourself feel better, towards the middle of treatment, I learned that if I had the strength to dress up nice ...I felt better (Look good, Feel Good!)  I would also say - Never give up and keep fighting until you can’t fight anymore!  Be your own advocate when it comes to your me

Survivor Saturday w/ Crystal Jones - Maryland Portrait Photographer

Crystal Jones is out feature for this Survivor Saturday!  She is a ball of energy and we are not FAMILY!!! She has an amazing personality and we hit it off immediately!  She came to slay for her session and we laughed the entire time she was at the session!  Her strength and joy is infectious and I can't wait for you all to read about Crystal....

1. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when

I am diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma

2. How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was 47 years old

3. What/Who helped you get through your treatment?

My family and friends. My partner of 6 years decided to cheat with someone I thought was a friend, so not only was I dealing with that, the cancer attacked my kidneys which they had to treat before the cancer with dialysis.

4. When were you deemed Cancer Free?

That hasn't happened for me yet

5. What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

I celebrate every day I'm alive!  I've traveled to places where I wish I could visit and thought I'd never see... like Paris.

6. Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

Yes, light the night walk. Also sharing my story of survival not only cancer, kidneys and betrayal

7. What would you say to someone that is just being diagnosed?

I wouldn't say too much. I'd let them speak. Too many times we offer platitudes but we really don't know if Everything is going to be alright. I went through a challenge of feeling guilty that I survived when so many others didn't. Why??? I'm ok with surviving at this juncture and I know that me being here is enough . I don't have to win a noble peace prize.

Survivor Saturday w/ Lynette Franklin - Maryland Portrait Photographer

Hey everyone!!! It's Saturday and today I am featuring this bright light known as Lynette Franklin!  She was so grateful for the is opportunity to tell her story and to help others.  During our session it was emotional for Lynette and this was part of her healing process and her moving forward in life.  Most time people that have cancer get stuck and these sessions are to remind them of their beauty and to help them see that IT ISN'T OVER, but a fresh start!  Everyone meet Lynette...

October 15, 2013 At the age of 38 I sat in my car and read a medical report which confirmed my biggest fear…I HAD BREAST CANCER.

On that day my life changed forever. Mentally, physically and emotionally I had to prepare myself for the battle of my life. Things that mattered previously no longer mattered and things that never mattered now mattered the most. I had no choice but to regroup. I had to keep praying, trusting and believing as I had always done before.

At this time I was a solider in the United States Army. I was hundreds of miles away form my family and friends. The ones whom loved me the most and would pray the hardest for me were the furthest away from me. During the emotional journey I was blessed with prayer warriors. They would pray for me when I was too weak to pray for myself.

I was blessed with women, ‘sistas’ near and far who encouraged me, inspired me and prayed with me and for me. I endured chemotherapy, radiation, a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. This journey tested me on every level.

However, through my heartache, hurt and scars I am thankful and forever grateful for this part of my journey. It made me dig deep and prove to myself what I was truly made of. God has used me to create awareness, promote self-examination and encourage each other spirits.

Again, I thank you for allowing me this opportunity to tell my story. It is my hope that through the pain, tears, and emotional roller coaster I am able to inspire, encourage and motivate someone else who may have to go through such a life changing experience.

Survivor Saturday w/ Doretha Burrell - Maryland Portrait Photographer

AMAZING is the word I use to describe Doretha.  She was so appreciative of the session and grateful for our time together.  I had a blast with her and her daughter.  Shecame ready to be photographed and had the most up beat personality!  Doretha is a force to be reckoned with and she is a mover and shaker.  Please read her story and share with others so they might be encouraged.

1.      What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

I was diagnosed on January 3, 2007.  I was diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer and it was an aggressive form of breast cancer.

2.      How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was 50 years old at the time when I was diagnosed.

3.      What/Who helped you get through your treatment?

My lovely daughter, Andrea, my granddaughter, Jayla and at the time my significant other, Jim helped me get through my treatments.  My granddaughter, Jayla was only 2 years old and she would accompany her mom to my treatment and would sit right next to me in a chair as I was administered chemotherapy.  She is now 12 years old and she supports me along with her mom, Andrea on anything I do regarding workshops, walks, etc.  I am truly blessed with my support system now ten years later. At the time of my treatments, I was living in PA and my sisters drove there to visit me.  A friend, Jean, was the brave soul that came to the house to shave my head, which was devastating to see the hair fall to the floor. Having the faith, strength and courage to battle this disease, breast cancer, made me mad and angry for a little and getting mad with it made me push harder to fight it.

4.      When were you deemed Cancer Free?

I considered myself cancer free as soon as I went thru my surgery and was told by my oncologist that I was cancer-free.

5.      What did you do to celebrate that special day and your anniversary day?

To celebrate that special day and my anniversaries and actually EVERY DAY, I spend time talking and praying to GOD to thank him for allowing me to see another day and keeping me cancer-free.  Normally we go out to dinner to celebrate , but this anniversary date which was my 10 year anniversary,(Jan. 3, 2017), my morning started off at Patient First to get checked for a bad cold that I had picked up and I wasn’t feeling well.  So, sometimes plans do not go as we want, but one thing for sure, I was getting checked out by the doctors by having blood work performed.  So even though I was not able to celebrate as I had planned, I am still fine with the day because I am ALIVE and CANCER-FREE. After I left Patient First feeling relieved that it was nothing but a cold virus, I proceeded to Macy’s to catch a few after Christmas salesJ.  I had a nice quiet day to myself and shopped.  I made the best of the day and will continue to celebrate EVERY DAY! I NEVER work on my anniversary date.  That date is ALL ABOUT ME! After all, I deserve it from all the cries, .treatments… chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, Herceptin and the many prescriptions needed to help with the recovery.

6.      Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

I formed a 501 c3 breast cancer foundation, “Y-U Breast Cancer Foundation”.  Our mission is to take 3-4 women per year on a Road to Recovery Excursion.  The day is all about her.  Thus far, we have granted 3 women for the trips.  We actually returned from a road trip on Dec.29, 2016 as the last one for 2016.  Our breast cancer survivor chose to tour Washington, DC.  Her mother from Florida accompanied us along with our marketing director.  We had a great time touring the Thomas Jefferson Building, The Library of Congress, and The Supreme Court and then we had the opportunity to ride the Big Bus Washington DC, where we enjoyed a lovely bus ride for 2 hours.  We finished our trip with dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in Annapolis. I usually fund these trips from my own monies because we do not a lot of fundraising events and funding, but I do know one day real soon someone will donate lots of money to us so we can get that RV to take these women on the excursions.  For now, I put the “Road to Recovery” signs on my car and we keep it moving.  I have faith that we will get the funding needed to keep these trips for the women battling breast cancer!

 7.      What would you say to someone that is just being diagnosed?

I know first-hand how devastating it can be to hear the words “you have cancer”. Please know that you are not alone.  There are many of us willing to call you, talk with you, cry with you and do anything that we can to comfort you.  You will begin to converse with people about varies subjects and you will find that more times than not, many of the people that you talk with have either been diagnosed with cancer or is a care-giver to someone who has or is currently battling cancer.  Stay strong and focused, pray and keep the faith!

Allow friends and family to help you.  You might find it tough to receive help because I am sure you are the one always helping others and do not know how to accept help from others.  Friends and family really do want to help but often they just don’t know what to do…so please let them help you.  They really do want to help.  Remember they are affected too because they love you and want to see you through this ordeal. Most importantly surround yourself around positive people. 

On Location w/ HumandotProject - Maryland Portrait Photographer

As I get older, I grow to appreciate home the more I travel back.  The small town of Atwater, California that I grew up in, where nothing ever happened now has a movement that is uniting humanity in a time when it is most needed.  Human. was started by Stephen Hillyer while he was a student at Buhach Colony High school and he now attends UC Davis where he a Senior and Psychology major.

Human. is a movement dedicated to pursuing respect and equality for all people. The organization is steadfast on removing labels that society has implemented and they are advocates for EVERYONE!  The cores values for this company are easy and if you believe in them then you should show support by joining the movement.  They are RESPECT for all human beings, Envision all human beings as EQUAL and, ADVOCATE for those that are marginalized, singled out, groups and communities.

When you get behind this movement and you see another person in this apparel, it is an understanding that you see each other only as a HUMAN.  That you can respect differences, treat the person fairly and as you would want to be treated and you will advocate on their behalf should they ever need you to do so.  I was in awe of the drive for this organization and had a wonderful time visiting this family with such a sincere heart for change and equality.  With every purchase a sweatshirt is donated to the local homeless population of Merced County.

For more information on this awesome organization go to: www.humandotproject.com
Social Media: #humandotproject

Survivor Saturday w/ Jasmine Pettross - Maryland Portrait Photographer

Hello everyone! Meet Jasmine the most recent to grace the blog as a cancer survivor.  Jasmine's session started calm and quiet as she didn't know exactly what to expect but once she sat in the makeup chair and the music started she was all in for this session!  Jasmine has the sweetest spirit and we had a great time.  Please read her story, like and share on social media to help raise awareness.

Jasmine was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer at the age of 23 in March 2016. She is currently 24 turning 25 in May.

What/Who helped you get through your diagnosis?

That was the most difficult time for me but with the help of God, family and friends I got through it. My mom and dads side helped out a lot and helped me to see things in a positive way. My friends and family took me to my appointments and came over to keep me company. My friends were always there to cheer me up and to make sure I wasn't down. I leaned on God when I needed strength and he gave it to me, he might have made me wait but he never failed me! Another reason why it's was difficult was because I was told I wouldn't be able to have children unless I got my eggs frozen and that I would have to get my ovaries moved up and one taken out so I wouldn't go into menopause at a early age. I did complete those procedures. I was on chemo April 2016 to may 2016 and had radiation for 6 weeks as well everyday. The radiation caused me to have pain urinating and having a bowel movement.

When were you deemed Cancer free?
August 2016 is when I had my surgery to get my Cancer out. They also put a ileostomy bag on me for 8months. I was then cancer free. My pathology report came back negative for no signs of cancer. I was on chemo for four months just to make sure it didn't come back. I finished chemo January 15, 2017. I will get my ileostomy bag off in April of 2017. 

What do you do to celebrate your anniversary?

I officially celebrated going into remission January 15. I went out with some friends and had a great time and the next weekend spend the weekend at Massenuttin resort in Virginia with a girlfriend, the celebration is still not over. I celebrate everyday for getting a second chance at life!

Do you have any special charities that you are involved in or host as a survivor?

I am involved with the organization We Cancervive. I give back to any one affected by cancer who is in need when I can. I go out and support the organization when they have fundraiser functions. It makes me happy when I can help out a cause like this. We are survivors. 

What advice would your give to someone that is just being diagnosed?

I would just say to someone who is diagnosed with cancer to just have faith. As soon as I had faith in God is when I started receiving blessings ! God truly saved my life and he can save yours to. He tested my faith. Don't let the pain take over you keep fighting and fight again and fight again ! God is working behind the scenes right now ! He got me prepared for something that my future holds and is making me stronger!My mission isn't over yet. He was more than my Cancer. Keep fighting and never give up!

Survivor Saturday w/Tabatha Smith - Maryland Photographer

When I started this journey to help women that have survived various forms of cancer, little did I know that these women would be so grateful for this small opportunity to have their portraits taken.  So much is taken from them in the time of their diagnosis and treatment that I wanted to be able to give back something fun and exciting.  All of these women have a story and I wanted to hightlight them and give them a chance to tell their stories.  Tabatha Smith is the newest Survivor to grace my blog and share her story!  You never know who you can help! Meet Tabatha...

I was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer at the age of 24. The date to be exact was March 24,2016, 3 days after I started a new job . While getting in the shower one day I decided to give myself a breast check, my right breast felt  great , so I moved over to my left breast , as I went around my breast it felt great , I decided to touch my left nipple and I felt a lump right behind my nipple .  I thought about it for awhile , as I started praying.  Cancer came across my mind, I prayed "God give me strength". I finally stepped  out the shower and went on about my day. I called my twin sister and I asked her what was the name of the Breast doctor.. she replied to me as she was giving  me the information and stated to me  you are ok, no worries, as I told her I found a lump in my left breast . I found the lump in my left breast in February 2016. I made an appt with the doctor, he did an ultra sound, felt my breast as well and stated to me I looked great and he was 100% sure it was no cancer and nothing to worry about!  I went home after leaving the doctor still praying and talking to God! I prayed that God would guide me and lead me in the right direction. I arrived home and my gut feeling told me "something is not right" I Went back to the doctor and I stated to him you have to give me a biopsy , It's the only way you can prove to me you are right!

He stated to me he did not have time for that, that day and my ultra sound was Normal .. I stated "well I have all day so I am not going anywhere until I get one" so finally he did the biopsy...he then stated "Tabatha your breast look great with no signs of cancer." Weeks and weeks went by , and I heard the results "your results came back as cancer."  I started talking to God, I called my mother and told her , she then hung up in my face. I never told my mom I had found a lump in my breast from the beginning.  I then called Darius and he stated I'm coming to get you , I replied back , it's ok I'll make it home . I made it to my car and drove with tears just flowing and talking to God. I stated to God , if you bring me to it, you will bring me through it! I never even realized I was strong, I believe I surprised my own self.

I went for a mammogram the same day and my mammogram was 100% Normal, no cancer was ever picked up from my mammogram. The next day I went to get an MRI, my MRI did pick up the cancer. I say this to say, you must know your body because NO doctor knows your body as well as you do!  I went on my life praying daily to keep me sane and to keep me from going crazy, not only was I devastated but I was more devastated that a doctor kept trying to convince me I did not know what I was talking about. I prayed through this whole process and God was truly my guide! My surgery was 8 hours long and I woke up very relaxed. I must say VCU did a wonderful job and I was 100% satisfied. My lump was about 2.1 cm. After  getting all my results back my oncologist decided that getting 4 rounds of chemo every 3 weeks would be the best for me, due to my age and preventative reasons . I prayed that chemo would not take me down and thankful I must say, it did not. I did not get sick one time with chemo! Faith is the key to everything! Through it all I am a warrior and I know I can conquer anything that is faced my way with God on my side. What  the devil  meant for evil God turned it around and meant it for my good!! Today at the age of 25 I stand strongly as a breast cancer survivor !

Holiday Family Sessions - Maryland Photographer

If you didn't have time to get your family holiday session in before the end of 2016....there is still time!  Now that we have snow on the ground here in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area, there are some great locations to get your family photos taken.

I met this amazing and adorable family and we went out on a chilly morning to capture these few portraits off of the Potomac River in Washington, DC.  The kiddos as you can see are absolutely to cute for words and were real troopers in the cold weather.  They came ready to have the camera capture some fun moments and awesome hugs between brother and sister.

Survivor Saturday w/Mia Wright - Maryland Photographer

Survivor Saturday w/Mia Wright - Maryland Photographer

Mia Wright is a lover of all things fashion forward, she is full of life, and a three-time ovarian cancer survivor. Mia was originally diagnosed in 1999 at the age of 23, experienced a recurrence in 2007, and overcame a terminal diagnosis in 2013.

Read More

Hilliard Family Session - Maryland Photographer

Awesome family alert!   A four and two year old keep you on your toes when trying to capture the moments.  One was ready to go and the other was not really happy about the camera situation.  Between the UGGs and the impromptu ballet instruction, all to get a shot, the girls were quite entertaining.  We went to the Buddy Attick park to catch the leaves changing colors in the trees and walk through the grass to capture these images.  Mom and Dad were delightful and awaiting the arrival of a little baby boy in January!  Can't wait to meet him!

Survivor Saturday w/ Erica Campbell - Maryland Photographer

Hi everyone!  I had the pleasure of connecting with Ms. Erica Campbell for an amazing survivor photo shoot last weekend.  We had an amazing time and she came ready to get her photos taken!  I am so glad we were able to link up and I could provide this service to her!  Please read Erica's story and help her raise awareness of blood cancers.

Erica was diagnosed with potentially fatal Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma on March 28, 2013. Her journey to survive her battle with cancer was very trying but after overcoming her obstacles, Erica is very passionate about inspiring people to have the d’zire to survive any challenges that they may face in their lives. Erica’s fight to survive lymphoma had its highs and its lows, however she didn’t give up even when at times her battle seemed like it wasn’t getting any easier. Through her unwavering faith and trust in God as well as exuding a positive attitude, she knew she could get through it all. Erica is working to build her nonprofit foundation “Dzire2Survive” with a mission to improve the quality of life of patients and their families touched by the lymphoma disease, by providing education and up to date information. Erica wants to inspire patients with peer to peer comfort to help them continue to fight and overcome their battle with blood cancers. Erica is an ambassador with “The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society” and “The Lymphoma Research Foundation” where her story is featured this month on their Adolescent and Young Adult stories of hope page (https://www.lymphoma.org) with a host of other features such as the Houston Style Magazine, Cancer Today Magazine, CURE Magazine and LRF lymphoma awareness campaign videos (Erase Lymphoma, Impacting Lives-Youtube) sharing her amazing life changing survival story. She has raised over $5K in funds and cancer awareness over the last three years with her team “Dzire2Survive” and impacted so many lives at the Light the Night Walk with LLS and the Lymphoma 5k Walk with LRF.

In September 2015, Erica launched her “Dzire2Survive Inspirational Journal” line. She created these journals to give individuals like herself an outlet to write about life changing events. Her journals will help inspire one to not only write about their journey, but to also show their artistic side by drawing or using photos as one of their many memories. As a survivor of cancer, Erica has a very inspirational journey that she enjoys sharing with others and in her personal Dzire2Survive journal, so she wanted to create something special for others as well. In Erica’s spare time she loves to sing, shop, workout, travel and most of all spend time with her family and close friends. She loves the Lord and through Him, she enjoys helping others affected by cancer by sharing her empowering story. Erica’s motto that she lives by and share with other survivors is, “Never give up on your fight and continue to survive with your beautiful smile…Dzire2Survive”.

If you know a survivor in the DC, Maryland or Northern Virginia area please have them contact me to help them share their story and get the photo session of their life!

Maia's Senior Portraits - Maryland Photographer

Senior photos are always fun!  I love being around young people because they keep you young and on your toes!  Ms. Maia wanted to have her session by the water so we went to the Naval Academy for her session.  It was a nice afternoon that allowed us to get their not to long before sunset.  She is super excited to finish high school and start the next chapter in her life her in the DMV. 

Secrets of a Housewife Movie Premiere - Maryland Photographer

If you all haven't heard of the movie Secrets of a Housewife...you all are in for a treat!  This start studded cast is sure to get you talking about the secrets in your life!  The shows Executive Producer, Tressa Azarel was a pleasure to meet and just a sweetheart and genuine.  The passion for her movie making is apparent once you meet her.  The movie was filmed in the DMV and a lot of the cast is from here or the surrounding areas.  Be on the look out for this to come to a theater near you really soon!

Survivor Saturday w/ Jennifer - Maryland Photographer

Hello everyone!  Survivor Saturday is something I have had on my heart to do as a photographer for awhile.  I have wanted to highlight women that have survived by having a glam day for the individuals.  It is a little girls day out type session where hair and makeup is provided and I shoot them in a contemporary glamour session! it is time to celebrate the women that have survived all cancers and tell their stories so that it might help others.  Please meet the first survivor of the series....Jennifer!

Jennifer was diagnosed in early 2015 with adenoid cystic carcinoma. It's a rare salivary gland cancer (primarily) but can be found in several different glands in the body.  She didn't have any symptoms other than she discovered the lump in her neck by accident. She was initially misdiagnosed but after surgery to remove my gland, they did another test and that's when it was discovered that it was malignant. For Jennifer, it was a trying time to manage and find her own care. It took her 9 months to find doctors to assist her and finally determine radiation treatment was needed. Jennifer spent 6 weeks (33 sessions) receiving radiation to my head and neck. Jennifer is in the Air Force and was medical TDY about four hrs from where she lived to a German hospital. She was able to receive a type of radiation that is only available in Germany and Japan. The treatment itself was not painful, but the side effects from radiation to her neck area were rather painful.

Jennifer states that she is blessed that not to have any significant lingering side effects so far.  Jennifer says. "This journey has not been easy. It has had great impact on my personal life and relationships. I joke sometimes that I didn't receive my "Congratulations! You have cancer..." handbook because no one can prepare you for how to deal with it. In the military, we learn to push a lot of stuff down and move forward because we have a mission to do. I tried to handle cancer in the same manner and it did not work. It's something that I still struggle with at times. I am ok most of the time. As soon as it is time for a scan (every three months) or a cancer-related appointment, the reality of "oh wow...I have cancer..." is back to the forefront. Since it is still relatively new to me, I am still learning to "live with cancer". I'm still trying to figure out what is my purpose in this. For now, I feel as though I can do things like this to share my story and hopefully provide someone else hope as they fight their battle with cancer."

If you know a deserving woman that would love to have a session please send contact information to info@catherineraephotography.com.

 

Ms. Veteran America 2016 - Maryland Photographer

In early October, I had the honor of capturing the Ms. Veteran America award celebration.  These ladies are amazing and have proudly or are currently serving in the military.  These women as part of the competition take on the platform of raising money and awareness for homeless female veterans and their families.  For this campaign the women raised $80K towards the initiative and the organization of Final Salute Inc. 
This competition is far from a beauty pageant!  These ladies not only compete in talent, questions and stage presentation; but they also competed in a push up competition right on the stage in front of the spectators.  It was great to see those that dropped cheer on their comrades in this section of the night.  From 25 it went to the Top 10 and then the Final 3 and then the final question.  Congrats to Captain Molly Mae Porter who was crowned Ms. Veteran America 2016!