My Grandfather was a photographer, he took photos during WWII and Also taught Photography classes at Oregon State University. He was never without a camera in his hands. It was in my genes to follow in his footsteps, my camera went everywhere I did for as long as I can remember. I began studying Photography at The American High School of Surrey, located in England, which I believe started my sails towards a lifetime of capturing life through a lens. In 1995, I had the honor of being photographed by a hero of photography, Kieron "Spud" Murphy. In my one session with him, Picture to the left, he taught me how to affirm the person on the other side of my lens to feel their very best. To point to all the beauty and helping people to see that no one sees the personal flaws that you do. After that session, I spent a semester at The American College of London where my love for writing and Photography came together through amazing instructors.
By 1999 I was working as freelance photographer and have had the passion continue to grow and expand to this day.
In 2009, one year after my fourth son was born, I learned that I had a brain tumor the size of a baseball. I had been handed two options upon finding out, have brain surgery now, or pass away in a few weeks.
My first response was dropping to my knees with tears and just thanking God for helping me find what was going wrong with me for so terribly long.
I needed a 13-hour surgery, and I did not know if I would ever wake up. I stared endlessly into my one-year-olds sons eyes trying to leave a piece for him to remember.
As soon as I woke up, I wish that I hadn't. I was paralyzed on the right side of my entire body, deaf in one ear, wheelchair bound, and in the most excruciating pain known to man. Seven nerves in my face were now misfiring and I was diagnosed with what is called "the suicide disease " acute trigeminal neuralgia.
I had a misconception that if the tumor came out and I survived I would be back to normal. But my journey became that of finding a new normal.
I fought tooth and nail to be able to walk again. Years spent in physical therapy; I spent years going to a facial pain therapist to get my mouth moving again.
Years going to pain clinics only to catch Meningitis which was somehow worse than the tumor.
But then one faithful day the Mayo clinic offered me the chance of becoming patient #12 to receive a cortical brain implant to take the pain away. And the moment I woke up from another 13-hour brain surgery I was pain free.
Today my fight is against broken bones in my back that won't heal, and a tumor on my L5 that is mean. But I am not where I was once was.
The power of fighting is so very real. Speaking life when so many people have spoken the opposite. I have spent my new lease speaking hope, love and light whenever I am presented with the opportunity. Because hope is the spark that ignites the flame to belief.
I climbed a mountain in a rain forest this year. Who would have ever thought? For the girl they said would never walk again. (Photograph gallery below, not for the faint of heart. )
And a reminder that if I can, the least of these, you can too.
If I were to survive this, it would be for a reason. So many people came to my side to help my family while I laid in bed for almost five years. Meals, cars, carpeting, anything we needed it just seemed to appear. Sometimes from people we knew, and sometimes nameless. I saw people acting as the church and I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to give in any capacity that I could as well. And as I got better that door opened up for me through my love for photography. I started by giving sessions away to everyone who helped me. Then my business seed was planted as I offered photography sessions in exchange for donations towards mission trips and free photography for health needs families. And from there, my new world.
Light in the Valley was found when my valley walking was dark and isolating. And it the light was delivered by faith and by the people who felt led.
I have a disease called NF2, it causes benign tumors to grow in my brain, spine, knees and arms. When the tumors cause me too much neve pain, they have to come out. At the moment while I still operate in as much full-time mode as possible, I suffer tremendous pain. I currently have a tumor in my spine that presses on some major nerves, and we are debating another surgery.
Every bit of pain leaves during every photoshoot. Just gone. It seems to be the one thing that completely takes my brain out of the pain. To me that is every indication that I am on the right path. I live each day so thankful for each experience, good and bad because that is how we learn and grow.
Photo to the left: Me photographing a three-year-old diagnosed with a brain tumor since birth. I gained so much strength from him.