My life has been touched by the big “C”. Yes, I’m referring to Cancer. Of family closest to me, both my mother and mother-in-law had it, and I am beyond grateful that they are both well now. I know cancer is present in my family history so that possibility is always there. In the back of my mind, I sometimes wonder if that benign cyst in my left breast will one day metastasize. Or another will show up somewhere else and cancer will be my reality. No one wants to think about this for themselves, let alone their children. But here’s the thing, cancer doesn’t discriminate.
A couple of years ago, a friend lost her little girl, Ava, to an inoperable and terminal brain tumour. She was only four. It is incredibly heartbreaking to say goodbye to your own child so early before their time, someone whom you have imagined had a whole life ahead of them the moment they were born to you. I cannot begin to even say I understand, because unless I’ve gone through a similar loss, I never will. She could have shut out everyone in her life, but instead, she built The Gold Hope Project in Ava’s name. It is a non-profit organization that dedicates time and skill to photographing families with childhood cancer fighters, no matter where they are in their journey. It is stories like hers that has inspired me to find my own way to fight back.
I started with the Tiny Light Foundation. While I was putting together my application, I thought of reaching out to local organizations as well. This is how I found Canuck Place and their incredible team. Somehow, fate has guided me to inquire at a time where they were also looking to flesh out their group of photographers. This is how I “fell” into the position of a volunteer photographer, along with five other photographers in the city, providing families with end of life photography when they request for it. It could be cancer, it could be some other illness. Whatever the reasons that brought them to this part of their fight and journey, their strength and bravery always seem outweigh their fear and grief. I may be giving back with my photography, but more than anything, they are giving me the invaluable perspective of gratitude for the life and health that our children have. It is always a steady driving force for my work with family photography and finding as much value and meaning for these parents and their children through the images that I create. For their now, for their future, for the unforseen.
Today is September 1st and the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Please help spread awareness so we can collectively fight to stop it. You can also donate towards research and resources or volunteer for this cause at Canuck Place or the annual Child Run, which will be held on June 5, 2016 next year. The smallest contribution will make a difference.