Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cancer Connections Photography Show -play by play

I made it! It's been a long time coming. That's me beside my photo.

I finally made it to the opening of the Cancer Connections Show. It was a grey and wet day as two friends of mine and I begrudgingly got up at an ungodly hour and caught the ferry. Four thirty in the am is a far cry of when I'm usually able to get my old bones out of bed. I drove and picked up the two others. These two friends I went with have known me forever and were the perfect companions to take me to this opening because they know where I came from, where I've been and what this day truly meant to me.

I had my stuff ready the night before so in the morning all I had to do was roll out of bed and get into the shower. I was hoping the scary would be worn off by the time the ferry arrived in Vancouver and I could look decent enough to be seen in public.

When I picked up the second fabulous friend at 6:00am I was surprised to see a vision of spectacular gorgeousness open the door. Her hair was done, her makeup was perfect and her outfit looked like she was about to waltz into a cocktail party. She had va va voom written all over her. How someone can make themselves look that good that early in the morning, I'll never know. But I shouldn't have expected anything less from my Bohemian Chic friend.


So, I really wanted to wear the purple dress or at least one that was bright and colourful so I stood out from the black and white photography. The night before I tried on the dress again just to make sure but it was too tight and my body began physically reacting against it by having a unrelenting series of hot flashes. I freaked and my son almost had to tackle me. I had to get him to undo the side zipper under my panicked menopausal sweating arm pit, zipping in my flesh once or twice and I managed to run upstairs and haul it off. It felt like life and death, trust me. The things I put my poor sons through.

Last summer I managed to shed 15 lbs of my prednisone weight but it all came back when I was sick this winter. I had purchased the dress at the end of the summer specifically to wear to this opening so I was pretty upset. I shuffled through my closet to find anything else that would fit me, that wasn't Old Navy sweats. I managed to fit into one thing. A dress that I had worn to my university family graduation party. Last time I wore it I was bald and wearing a bright red/orange wig.

I found a coat that went with it but I was upset because it was all black. I rarely wear black and I didn't want to look like I was going to a funeral. I wanted to be happy, sunny and bright.... but as we know, shit happens. I had stuffed some variations of coloured tights and shoes to offset the black but on the ferry my brilliant consultants suggested I wear the grey tights and the black.

Despite my misgivings these two are too brilliant not to listen to so I complied. They soothed my sad vanity by telling me I looked mysterious and professional and sleek like Audry Hepburn.... I was sold. I did my hair and makeup in the ferry rest room and began to feel as amazing as they said I was.


I have a knack for knowing extraordinarily amazing people. Two of these extraordinarily amazing people accompanied me through the hellishly early morning to get onto a ferry and see a photography show at 10:00 am in the rain.

I was feeling a bit scattered emotionally by going to this show with the photograph I took in the hospital only a few days before my transplant. This would be the first time I had seen it in print and it would be with 500 other images of people going through cancer. When I took the photograph I never imagined it would ever be seen by anyone else much less the entire country. I had a lot of expectations.

Both of these friends have been there for me through these last 4 years. They have had ultimate patience, haven't judged me and have just been there as rays of sunshine and reason through all of this crap. They will bitch and whine with me when I need to be sad or angry, and they will laugh and make bad jokes whenever I needed it. They help feed my creativity when it's in danger of falling into despair and remind me when I'm down that life goes on.

When I was sickest and couldn't get out of bed for a few years, one would come over and sit on my bed with me and we would laugh. Those were some dark days that seemed a little brighter because she was there. She wasn't scared off by all the hell I was dealing with and I will be forever grateful.

The other has been through things most people wouldn't have to deal with in a lifetime, yet she has dealt with it all with tenacity and grace. Her home bursts at the seams with creativity and her paintings. Her personality sparkles and she is light years more amazing than she realizes she is.

So they helped me pick out and feel better about what I was wearing and quietly attended the opening with me. When we arrived, they eagerly looked for my photograph and humoured me while I took photos of everything. I have a hard time with fatigue and my mobility so one friend drove, so as not to tire me out. They also carried my bags through the whole thing holding my various cameras and took video for me.

They basically made me feel like it was my day and they were in my corner. They asked for nothing the entire time, just supported me as I flitted about like an excited school girl.

They also sat with me way off in the corner while I recouped a bit.

I had to wait until a while after the end of the ceremony to be interviewed for a video that will eventually be added to the Photosensitive site. As we shivered in the cold waiting, my friend Jamie coached me on what to say and let me know what parts about my experiences were amazing. She let me know what was extraordinary about me and what I should say to the world. If she hadn't done that I would have been a big blank because this whole experience is just one large jumbled fog to me.

When my interview was over and some photos were being taken I could hear her in the background talking me up to the interviewer. It seemed her brain runneth over with good things to say about me. Afterwards she calmed my nerves by telling me I did a good job.

After it was all done and everyone had left, the other lovely lady heard me say I wish I could hoop around the photos. She happily offered to run down to the car in the parkade and bring my flat shoes and my hoop. Because she did that I was able to fulfill this little side dream of mine to bring joy into such a serious subject.

No stone was left unturned that day. I wouldn't have been able to do all those things if it hadn't been for them.


I didn't notice them at first because I was so overwhelmed with all the beautiful photos but there was a lot of media there that day. I was interviewed by someone but I'm not sure who. Unfortunately the interview was a big fail on my part. I just really wasn't prepared to verbalize anything about the photo. All I had cared about was living long enough to see it.

At first I was asked to be interviewed when they realized I was the person in the photo I was standing next to. Next they asked if my photographer was there to be interviewed as with me. I told them several times that it was a self portrait and pointed the camera in the photo out twice before they got it. Then they began asking me questions. I think I did not too badly until they asked me a question that completely threw me. They asked what I thought my photograph meant to others who see it. What did the world think of my photo?

Huh? I really can't say what someone else would see in it. It was such an intense personal moment in my life that how outsiders would think of it escapes me... plus I can't read minds.

Me, "Duuuuhhhhh". I finally answered by cracking a big smile and saying, "I'm just really happy to be here", but I'm not sure they actually knew what I meant by that and then they were on their way.


I still have a lot of physical problems but was shocked when I saw these photos and how well I look. That's great and all but there are still days when I wish I had renewed my handicapped badge for my car. The photos I take where I look energetic and spry are just a millisecond of my life. I'm glad to have these moments caught on film because it gives me drive and hope that I will be that unhindered person again.

This photo was snapped of me while watching the action from the sidelines. This is my first time wearing a raised heal and I couldn't carry my camera and wear them. I also didn't last very long before I needed to sit it out. You can actually see how I'm holding my hands because they hurt. I usually forget these moments because I prefer to remember the moments that portray me as strong. Strong is who I used to be.

My reality looks a lot more like this now as I'm usually on the sidelines if I'm there at all. I'll keep trying.


This day is one of the best in my life and is only equaled by the day I got to walk up at my university convocation, blue wig and all. This day couldn't have been done without my friends and I give them a heartfelt thank you.

Computer update: am still working on getting my photos on the new computer so I can add them to this post. I can't seem to get them straight off my old laptop and the new mac only takes a new firewire connection! Argh! They only change that stuff so I have to buy a new cable :(


Caroline said...

no great post! I too clam up when someone asks me personal questions. But you did get to see your pix!

danaceau said...

Fantastic photo of you next to your fantastic photo. I love this line, I think it captures the essence of how we often present ourselves to the world:

"The photos I take where I look energetic and spry are just a millisecond of my life."

Dawny said...

can't wait to see the rest :O)

nice one !!!!


Jens said...

Black clothing is probably not suitable for every day. But you look very elegant in this picture.


Kyra said...

you missy, are fabulous. thank you for sharing your experience... it is very touching. xo

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for sometime, I will be going to transplant as soon as they can find a donor - I have CML blast crisis and doing well on Gleevec so far...your photo is beautiful and what it says to me is strong, beautiful, determined, and courageous. You are an inspiration.

Cheryl T.

Ann aka ButDoctorIHatePink said...

Wihout a doubt, you are rocking the Audrey Hepburn look. Congratulations on such a wonderful day and such a success - you did good!