This past weekend I had the opportunity to enjoy a rarity - a reunion of sorts, with a lot of people that I grew up with and have very fond memories of. The trouble was, this time, the reunion was for all of the wrong reasons...
I grew up in a close knit neighborhood and small school system. Everyone knew everyone else, and with few exceptions, we all went through kindergarten, elementary, junior high, and high school together. We knew people in the classes above us and below us almost as well as we did our own classmates. We knew the younger and older siblings of the kids we went to school with, and it was (and is) one big happy jumble of people from that neighborhood. With time and years, I've come to understand exactly how special and amazing this (really) is. Life and circumstance have moved us all in very different directions, but that bond, formed many years ago in a small community, still holds us all together. We don't get together as often as we should these days (I am guilty of letting work and life get in the way of making the trip back out there as often as my heart would like to go), and unfortunately, when we do, it is happening more these days to recognize or commemorate journeys that are not so much about adventure, but life.
Recently, one of our own was diagnosed with breast cancer. Under any circumstances, this diagnosis is serious, but in Anna's case, it's an aggressive form of the disease. Horrible news. The outpouring of support was amazing - someone we went to school with works at U of M in the very department that Anna needed to see. She got in quickly. Started treatment. A web site was set up for monetary donations. You can visit that by clicking here.
(SIDE NOTE: We generally don't realize how many things health insurance doesn't cover in the face of a diagnosis of this magnitude: medication co-pays, doctor co-pays, hospital co-pays, testing, screening, and monitoring co-pays. There is a co-pay expense for EVERYTHING. There are deductibles to meet, unexpected out-of-pockets costs, the list is endless and exhausting. There are monumental medical expenses AND restricted income to contend with - short-term and long-term disability insurance benefits are paltry, taxed, and designed to be minimal enough to incite you into getting back to work as quickly as possible. It's a special kind of hell for someone trying to fight cancer or heal from from any kind of monumental illness or injury. You shouldn't have to wage a financial war at the same time. *sigh*)
Some of Anna's friends and family organized a fundraiser.
That is what brought us all together again last weekend.
Being a photographer, I feel very strongly that our life's journeys be documented. The good ones, the bad ones, all of it. There is no such thing as too many pictures of your life or loved ones (there IS, however, such a thing as not enough of them making it off of a memory card, your cell phone, or a hard drive to see the light of day!) I'd planned on taking a camera to the event, and I would have taken my entire studio (I wish I could have, but with the amount of people and the size of the event space, it simply was not feasible). I took quite a few pictures. I wish I'd have taken even more. I am positive that I missed people (a lot
of people, there were so many people!) who should have been in this collection, but I hope that I captured some memories for Anna so that when she's much older, and reflecting back on this chapter of her life, she will see what a warrior she was (IS), and how so many people love and cherish her.
I've set up a gallery of images from her fundraiser, of which the net proceeds from sales will go directly to her for her medical and life expenses. In addition to prints, you can order T-shirts, buttons, mugs - a host of fun items to show your support and love. Access the gallery directly by clicking here
Join me in keeping this beautiful woman in your prayers as she conquers this disease.
Much love to you, Anna.